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[blog updated April 2019]
We all know that eating a food that you are allergic to such as a peanut, a tree nut or a shellfish can cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). But most of us would never imagine that the smell of food can cause a deadly allergic reaction – but it did.
An Allergy Tragedy
The story, Allergic Reaction To Smell Of Cooking Fish Suspected In Death Of 11-Year-Old, was documented on CBS New York that 11-year-old Camron Jean-Pierre of Brooklyn had a known allergy to fish and a history of asthma. Apparently, while his family was cooking codfish in the house he started to have an allergic reaction. His family hooked him up to a breathing machine but about 15 minutes later he became unconsciousness. He was rushed to Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn but tragically he could not be revived.
The cause of death has not been established; but, there is now a strong belief that the vapors given off by the cooked fish set up the deadly allergic reaction.
Reactions to Food Allergies
We all tend to think of food allergies as the result of ingesting the food which can cause a range of symptoms including
- skin rashes,
- stomach pain and vomiting,
- and even unconsciousness.
However, it is incredibly rare for a food that is not ingested to cause an allergic reaction.
I do remember a patient I cared for who had to be treated in the emergency room many years back who had a peanut allergy. The young boy was not eating a peanut but was in a classroom where other children were playing with peanuts and cracking open the shells. The peanut protein became airborne and he became short of breath and had a full-blown asthma attack.
What’s the Best Way to be Evaluated for Food Allergies?
In my practice at Mitchell Medical Group, I evaluate children and adults who have a strong suspicion of a food allergy with a specific blood test. The blood test is much safer than a skin test and highly accurate. I am also able to test for any specific foods and determine how strongly allergic the patient is to a specific food.
The test is called an ImmunoCap and is covered by all major insurances. In this tragic case involving Cameron, he may have been known to be allergic to shellfish but not other types of fish. This is a great example of why it is so important that a thorough and complete allergy analysis is done. It’s essential to know everything allergen that triggers allergic reactions and get long-term allergy treatment.
The Importance of having an Injectable Epinephrine at Home
I’ve been interviewed during the Epipen shortage on News 12 Long Island and me recommended that anyone with a serious food allergy have injectable epinephrine at home. Epinephrine injected into the thigh muscle in the leg within minutes of a severe allergic reaction can be life-saving. Patients with asthma because of their over-reactive lungs are especially at risk for a fatal allergic reaction to a food.
The Future of Food Allergy Treatment
I mentioned in my book, Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time in Chapter 10 on future treatments for food allergies. Researchers are coming closer than ever to finding a cure. Medical Centers at Duke and the University of North Carolina have conducted successful desensitization to peanut-allergic patients by giving them small doses of peanut powder in capsules and carefully increasing the dose to achieve a reversal of the allergy. This must never be done by non-specialists.
I am also very excited by the work of Dr. Edwin Kim, at the University of North Carolina, who is working on sublingual drops to desensitize patients. My expertise in sublingual desensitization to environmental allergens and my experience in how successful it is gives me hope that this treatment will change the life of all food allergy patients forever!
– Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC
About the Author – Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist based out of NYC. He graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine and completed training at the Robert Cooke Allergy Institute in New York City. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and the author of Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time. Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. has also been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fitness Magazine, Dr. Oz and News NY 1. Dr. Mitchell also hosts the podcast The Smartest Doctor in the Room – a combination of a lively, personal and in-depth interview with top healthcare specialists.
Allergic Reaction to Smell of Cooking Fish Suspected in Death of 11-Year-Old, CBS New York, January 2, 2019.