Following was the Editor’s Note from the Summer 2006 edition of Allergic Living.
Christina Desforges became known the world over as the girl who died from kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanut butter – specifically, nine hours before she collapsed, he’d had two pieces of toast spread with peanut butter.
Allergic Living was the first to report (Spring 2006 issue) that a coroner would find, however, that the 15-year-old from Saguenay, Quebec did not die of an allergic reaction, but rather succumbed to a severe asthma attack. And in May, Dr. Michel Miron released his report, saying just that.
Yet, in the allergy community, a few questions are being raised that the coroner may have answers for, but which aren’t addressed in his report. For instance:
• Christina arrived at her boyfriend’s house at 2:30 in the afternoon. Her fatal asthma attack began at 3 a.m. In the intervening time, what did she eat? Might any of it have contained traces of nuts or peanuts (she was allergic to both)? The friends with her didn’t know she was allergic – were they even able to tell the coroner what she ate?
• Did Christina and her boyfriend kiss or “make out” before 3 a.m., when the coroner mentions that kissing and “physical exertion” began? (A teenage couple who didn’t kiss for nine hours with no parents around would be a rather unusual pair.)
• Marijuana cigarettes were passed among friends. What had others eaten who may have shared a joint with Christina?
We may never have all the answers in the tragedy of Christina [see full report here]. But one message that comes through clearly in the coroner’s report is that teenagers with asthma and allergies need to be vigilant about both conditions; prepared with medications and knowledge of how to use them. You can’t be blasé about the very real risks of either condition.
A last word on peanut risks – in ruling out an allergic reaction in Christina’s case, the coroner referred to a new study on peanuts and kissing. While the study’s author found that nine of 10 people had no peanut residue remaining in their saliva one hour after eating peanut butter, she noted that other studies had found the allergen lasting longer.
Dr. Jennifer Maloney stressed the risks in kissing, and gave the Reuters news agency this sound advice: “The safest approach would be for the partner of a food-allergic individual to avoid the food. If this is impossible, we think that waiting several hours, possibly eating a meal in between, would reduce the levels below a level that would pose a critical problem.”
See also: The Kiss and Christina
It’s not just your imagination, this has been a tough year  for environmental allergy sufferers. It started off as a banner year for pollen production in North America’s northern regions because of a mild winter. Rain and moderate temperatures left plants bursting with pollen. Once that had dispersed into the air and our nostrils, summer landed prematurely in June.
In the northeast, you could almost hear its smog-filled thud. I’m one of those people who thrives on our sun-warmed months, but this was a brutishly humid, hot, sticky start to summer. It was unpleasant enough that even those without asthma spent the first days of summer shut inside with the air-conditioner.
This was, however, an appropriate time to be editing Sarah Scott’s investigation of latest findings on the relationship between air pollution and asthma (“Summer Smog & Asthma”). The connections between traffic and asthma in children are fascinating, if alarming. And the research Sarah discusses is already having an impact: in June the U.S. government cut the amount of sulfur allowed in car and truck diesel fuels to 15 parts per million from 500 parts per million. Canada will soon follow suit, and these changes are being tied directly to asthma’s health costs.
And yet more good news – auto manufacturers are reporting record sales of environmentally friendly hybrid cars and trucks. This is a beginning.
So raise a cold glass of your favorite allergy-friendly concoction to sunny and clearer skies for the rest of the summer. After all, we’ve got Simon Clarke’s great recipes to make on the backyard barbecue. Now that kind of smoke and heat, we’re willing to withstand.
First published in Allergic Living magazine, Summer 2006.
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