Andrea Mariano had just finished a class at Queen’s University on Sept. 15 and decided to go get a smoothie on campus, according to her family. It was her second day of her first-year of university.
“She had ordered a smoothie. All her life she has been very particular about letting whoever it is that is preparing her food know,” Andrea’s cousin Hedellaine Valentin told Global News. “To say, ‘I have an allergy to peanuts, I am deathly allergic to peanuts and I have an allergy to dairy products.’ She knows that. She tells them.”
Her family said shortly after getting a smoothie Andrea suffered a severe allergic reaction – anaphylaxis. She was rushed to Kingston General Hospital where she died a few days later on Sept. 18.
Andrea was allergic to dairy and severely allergic to peanuts, according to her family. It is unclear whether Andrea ordered the smoothie from a campus food outlet or a university dining hall.
Andrea’s cousin said she was excited to study psychology at Queen’s, her goal to help others. Valentin also said Andrea was meticulous about her allergies and informing others about them.
On that day, Andrea did something she never did, she was not carrying one of her two auto-injectors with her, according to her family, the injectors carry the drug epinephrine.
“The doctors have said, even if she had both EpiPens with her, it was that severe, whatever it was that she had ingested… this was inevitable,” said Valentin.
Her family will remember Andrea’s kindness, love of animals and musical abilities. They hope her death will raise awareness about severe food allergies, safe food handling and cross-contamination.
On campus, the flags have been lowered in Andrea’s memory.
In a statement, Queen’s said it continues to support Andrea’s friends and family, and will be reviewing its services.
“The health and well-being of our students is of the utmost concern to us and we will review the many services we have in place to ensure they are consistent with best practices.”
Queen’s also explained the institution’s policies for students living with allergies.
“The university does offer a number of services and support designed to guide students who live with or experience allergies and other health challenges. Those services include signage in our dining halls, as well as personal meetings with our campus executive chef in order to provide students with guidance when it comes to eating on campus.”
Although the number of cases of anaphylaxis is on the rise in Canada, deaths are rare. The people most at risk are youth.
“When you look at the fatalities, many of the people who have died have often been young people, teenagers and young adults,” said Laurie Harada, executive director of Food Allergy Canada.
She adds it is more complicated when young people leave home for the first time and are adjusting to life in a new environment, communicating with food services staff and learning how to pick safely in a dining hall and fast food setting. If someone suffers an anaphylactic reaction Food Allergy Canada recommends they use epinephrine and call 911.
“Sometimes these things happen very innocently,” said Harada. “It is increasingly important for food service to have their staff trained in how you manage allergens in your environment.”
Allergy Canada says approximately 2.5 million Canadians have at least one food allergy, and 300,000 Canadian children under the age of 18 have food allergies.