The combination of two recent food allergy deaths; Cameron Fitzpatrick and anaphylaxis have doused us in the real hard questions of why and how? In particular, a conversation grew of why are allergic patients with food allergy action plan are not fully prepared? Are patients not receiving proper information at diagnosis? One question lingering question that won’t leave my mind is how preventable are life threatening allergic reaction deaths. I asked Dr. Joshua Jacobs from the freedigitalphotos.net (San Francisco, CA Bay Area) to share this thoughts with us on this subject. I was curious as to what the allergist thinks or feels when these types of tragedies hit. Over the phone, he was clearly very disturbed and below he gives insight and hope.
Dr. Joshua Jacobs, image courtesy of Allergy and Asthma Medical Group of the Bay Area, Inc.
Guest Blogger, Allergist Dr. Joshua Jacobs…
The death of a child is a tragedy in every sense of the word. I cannot imagine the extent of loss that a parent must feel in this situation. Being a father myself, I have created a mental barrier that does not allow me to even consider such a possibility, yet every day in my office I inform parents that their child has a life threatening disorder. When I detach myself from myself as a physician, I wonder what if I was told that my child could lose their life to a disease process? How would I respond? How would my child respond? I reflect on the responses I’ve seen in my office when giving this exact news to parents. I have seen a spectrum of response from sheer panic to what seems like dismissive behavior but maybe just denial.
image courtesy of Stuart Miles/anaphylaxis
Parents of allergic children receive a written food allergy action plan from our office. The first sentence reads; XXXX has a life threatening food allergy to YYYY. In part, this is so caretakers will take the child’s food allergy seriously but also to remind parents that food allergy can be serious and life threatening. The loss of a child as I previously mentioned is tragic. This tragedy is compounded by the fact that many deaths are preventable. In many cases a small amount of prevention could have saved a life. The caretakers for a food allergic child need to be informed that their child’s life is at risk if they ingest food which contains the allergen to which they are allergic. Luckily, in many cases food allergy action plan is not fatal and most persons who experience it will recover without long lasting consequences (except, maybe a new found respect for allergic reactions). Because of the fact that recovery is by far the most common outcome many adults have a casual attitude toward their food allergies. There are well documented cases in which a food allergic adult has knowingly, repeatedly ingested the food to which they are allergic until on one occasion the reaction is fatal. Certainly, no parent would knowingly place their child in such danger but not being prepared to treat a food reaction is, unfortunately doing just that and is an all too common situation.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
What are the most important things to be on the food allergic parents and child’s checklist?
Know your allergen. Where it is found, other names for it. What other foods are at risk of cross contamination.
Read labels on everything you eat. Even if you have had a food before ingredients can change.
Have aDr. Joshua Jacobsand discuss it with your physician.
Always carry epinephrine (2 doses) that is not expired.
Educating your child to recognize a food allergic reaction and letting an adult know that they are having a reaction is also of paramount importance.
Although these being the top five things on my checklist, the list is not limited to these five. An old adage I like to use is, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” This really says it all when it comes to food allergies. Most of the time there will be a good outcome but if we are not prepared for the worst possible reaction and it occurs, the outcome may be worse than anyone could imagine; the loss of a child.
My heart goes out to those parents who have lost a child in any circumstance. I hope for those who read this, that they will never experience such misfortune. When it comes to food allergy, working with your allergist, continuing to educate yourself and your child, adding to your list and being ever vigilant is your best defense.–Dr. Joshua Jacobs.
Thank you Dr. Jacobs for sharing your thoughts regarding preventing food allergy and anaphylaxis deaths.
[twitter style=”horizontal” float=”left”]
[google_plusone size=”standard” annotation=”none” language=”English (UK)”]