Coming back to this blog is like entering a room I haven’t been in for a while – it’s a kinda stale and dusty. But I’ll do a little sweep and post this anyway.
Speaking of dust, the topic of this post is allergies. I’ll start with a little story from my nursing days.
One of our patients, a little guy about four years old, was going for surgery first thing in the morning. It was about 6 am, the end of night-shift, and he was up because he’d been given his pre-surgery sedation meds. We were stitting at the nursing station and he was on his nurse’s lap, when he basically keeled over and stopped breathing. Panic ensued (I know that’s a cliché – but it’s fun to have the opportunity to write it).
If you’re going to stop breathing, the best place to do it is in a hospital, and lucky for this little guy, we were able to bring him round easily. What had happened was he was just particularly sensitive to the medication he’d received and would have been fine with a lower dose.
The next time I was on days I overheard our booming manager saying we had to tell this boy’s parents that he was allergic to the medication.
Ummm…no. He did not have any facial swelling, his airway didn’t close. The drug meant to sedate him, simply went too far and suppressed his breathing.
This, I worry, is the kind of thing that makes people believe they’re allergic to things when, in fact, they’re not. The consequence could be that the next time this little guy goes to hospital, he will not be given the drug that caused him to stop breathing. If he’s truly allergic to it, he shouldn’t have it, but if he’s not, it might be of benefit to him in certain situations, but at a lower dose. (I suggested to my manager that we just tell the parents what exactly happened, so they know he is sensitive to the drug. They would have to get him tested to find out if he is actually allergic to it.)
All this brings me to this New York Times article about food allergies. Researchers who did a literature review of 12,000 research papers on allergies and found that 30% of the population believes they have some kind of allergy. They concluded that the definition of the term allergy is not clear and that many people confuse intolerance to certain foods (for example lactose intolerance) with a true allergy.
They also concluded that the skin-prick or antibody test alone are not sufficient to determine an allergy.
For more information check out these Merck Manual sites (so great that it’s on-line now – I’ll add it to my blog roll):
Allergic reactions: introduction
Anaphylactic allergic reactions