TORONTO – After eating an orange, a U.S. toddler went into anaphylactic shock – the first time such a case has been reported, according to doctors. Now they’re warning parents: allergies and asthma go hand-in-hand so it’s important to know your child’s risk factors.
Ninety per cent of kids with asthma also have allergies. That puts them at risk of suffering difficult-to-treat allergic reactions if their asthma is undiagnosed or poorly controlled.
The unusual case revolved around a two-year-old Pennsylvania girl, the allergists documented in their study published Thursday morning.
“She ate an orange, and within a few minutes had developed severe anaphylaxis,” Dr. Sigrid Da Veiga, the study’s lead author, said.
“Her lips and tongue swelled, she broke out in hives and couldn’t breathe well. Her parents immediately got her to an emergency room and she was flown by helicopter to a pediatric intensive care unit.”
After a two-day stay, the little girl recovered and was discharged. While looking at her medical history, the doctors learned that she had orange juice without reaction, but she also had undiagnosed asthma.
Allergy tests revealed the girl was allergic to both orange and peach.
“Several recommendations were made following the allergic reaction. She was advised to avoid orange and peach and also told to start asthma therapy, both of which will keep future allergic reactions under control,” Dr. Sayantani Sindher said.
It’s incredibly rare to have a severe allergic reaction to an orange, the researchers say. But it’s more common for people who suffer from hay fever to also suffer from oral allergy syndrome – that’s when you have an itchy mouth or scratchy throat after eating certain raw fruits or vegetables.
What’s at play may be a cross-reaction between allergens found in pollen and the fruits and vegetables.
This isn’t the first peculiar incident recorded in North America. In September, Canadian researchers reported on a 10-year-old Quebec girl who had a severe allergic reaction to a slice of blueberry pie.
In that case, they warned that you might not be allergic to the food at hand, but the pesticides on the produce might trigger a bad reaction.
“As far as we know, this is the first report that links an allergic reaction to fruits treated with antibiotic pesticides,” lead author, Dr. Anne Des Roches, said in a statement.
The 10-year-old girl had a medical history of asthma and seasonal allergies. She already knew she was allergic to penicillin and cow’s milk.
The Montreal doctors spent weeks studying their patient and the sample of the pie. The dessert didn’t contain milk. The young girl tested negative for allergies to blueberries, nuts, and eggs.
Ultimately, they concluded that it was a pesticide called streptomycin – on the blueberries – that triggered the allergies. Streptomycin is used to fight disease, but it’s also a common pesticide in fruit to stave off the growth of bacteria, fungi and algae, the researchers say.
“Certain European countries ban the use of antibiotics for growing foods, but the United States and Canada still allow them for agricultural purposes,” Des Roches said.
The patient’s allergic reaction is a rarity, the authors concede, but they suggest that it’s an incident that specialists in the field and frontline health care workers need to be aware of.
Da Veiga and Sindher’s findings were presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual scientific meeting Thursday.