This week, Quebec coroner Michael Miron released a statement disclosing that the death of peanut-allergic teen Christina DesForges in November 2005 was not caused by kissing her boyfriend following his eating peanut butter, as was previously thought. The coroner reports that she died from lack of oxygen to the brain; whether this oxygen deprivation was caused by asthma triggered by an allergen has not been determined. Despite food allergy not being cited as the cause of her death, Desforges’ story helped raise international awareness of food allergies and the unique pressures food-allergic teens and young adults face when dating. Previous studies have shown that teens and young adults with food allergies are the highest risk group for fatal, food-induced anaphylactic reactions. New research presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) annual conference this past weekend provided evidence that individuals with food allergies are at a high risk of having a reaction when kissing someone who has recently eaten the food to which they are allergic.
Jennifer M. Maloney, MD, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, and colleagues measured the level of peanut allergen in an individual’s saliva after eating a peanut butter sandwich – both before and after participants brushed their teeth. The study found that despite toothbrushing, allergen levels were detectable for up to four hours after a participant ate peanut butter. While a larger study needs to be conducted to make sweeping recommendations, the authors concluded that in addition to brushing their teeth, individuals who have consumed an allergen should wait several hours before kissing a food-allergic individual. Such findings demonstrate that it is essential for individuals – especially teenagers – to educate their friends and dates about their food allergies. Another new study, entitled “Risk-taking and Coping Strategies of Food Allergic Adolescents and Young Adults,” looked to identify why adolescents and young adults are at high risk for fatal food anaphylaxis. The study was conducted by Margaret Sampson and Dr. Scott Sicherer of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Anne Munoz-Furlong, CEO and Founder of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), a national nonprofit advocacy group. This study found that while 74 percent of food-allergic teens said they always carry epinephrine (the drug of choice for treating a potentially fatal reaction), that percentage varied during activities when teens were out with friends. Although 68 percent of food-allergic teens felt that educating their friends about their allergy would make their life easier, 40 percent did not always tell their friends about their allergy. The results indicate that educating teens and people around them in social situations may reduce risk-taking behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors. “Teenagers face unique social pressures that sometimes make it difficult for them to make consistent safe decisions. It is crucial that we help teenagers develop the tools they need to live safely with food allergies,” Munoz-Furlong said. This year, FAAN’s Teen Advisory Group, comprised of 20 adolescents and young adults from around the country, will help develop FAAN’s national teen outreach campaign to educate other teens about food allergies and prevent fatal reactions.(Source: The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: March 2006.)