Last Friday, a Bryant University teen died after eating a cookie that contained his allergen. According to Good Morning America, Cameron Fitzpatrick, 19, ate half an unlabeled cookie on his way back from a spring break trip. His friend took a bite first and did not detect any nuts. The normally diligent teen decided to eat the cookie without checking it's contents, and paid the ultimate price.
"We were all so shocked, it came out of nowhere," Fitzpatrick told ABCNews.com. "For 19 years, he had been knock-on-wood safe."
The question any food allergy parent asks next is whether epinephrine was administered. Every severely food allergic person counts on an epinephrine injection to save their life should a severe reaction occur to an allergen. It is the reason epinephrine must be carried with every highly allergic person at all times. Good Morning America reported that Cameron did have his epinephrine injector. However, it was packed away in his bags and was unable to be found quickly. In addition, the other epinephrine injector available was expired. Cameron's mother was told not to use the expired injector by first responders. The teen did get a dose of epinephrine, by a neighbor. It is unclear if the injection delay caused the teen's death.
"I didn't know you can die from nut allergies. I feel foolish," Cameron's mother said.
Should Cameron have been give the expired epinephrine? As a food allergy mother, this is the question that I what answered the most. Epinephrine injectors have about a one year shelf life and it is easy to forget to get them replaced in time. Is it safe to use the expired injector if that is all you have on hand? My research says YES!
Expired EpiPens have been studied for potency and there is a clear observation that the older the EpiPen is, the less helpful it would be in case of emergency. Bottom line for EpiPens –keep them only until their expiration date, then replace them. But, if all you have is an expired EpiPen, go ahead and use it. (allergyclinic.com)
When epinephrine expires it decreases in effectiveness. I have yet to find information that states that an expired epinephrine injector will cause further harm to an individual having a severe allergic reaction. The real threat is that it will not work effectively to save the person's life since it is has lost some or all of it's potency. This is a significant since it is when documented that even one dose of epinephrine may not be enough in some reactions. This is why patients are asked to carry two injectors.
My heart goes out to the Fitzpatrick's. It is tragic that they lost a child to this disease. It is important that we learn from these tragedies by informing our food allergy loved ones and care takers of the dangers and importance of precautions. We can not live in fear, but we must be informed to live.
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