On Monday, a 12 year old Toronto girl died suddenly after eating an ice cream cone at the mall. Doctors say that Maria Santarelli-Gallo died of a severe allergic reaction. However, they are unsure of what allergen caused the fatal reaction.
"We were eating ice cream. We go walk around. She tells me she doesn’t feel good,” her older sister Zoe said. “We went to the bathroom and the next thing I know is she needs her inhaler and there’s someone in the mall giving her CPR.” (CityNews Toronto)
Reports state that Maria had some intolerances, but no allergies were sited that required Maria to carry an epinephrine injector. The family is not unfamiliar with food allergies though, as Maria's sister does have nut allergies. Although a severe reaction to a food allergen is suspected, an autopsy is scheduled to hopefully determine the exact cause of death.
As young as she was, Maria already knew that she wanted a "fun" funeral. To honor her wishes, the family is asking mourners to dress in sunny attire and are having a rainbow theme at the funeral. The message is already going out to the Toronto community on Twitter under #coloursformaia.
This is the second food allergy related death of a teen in recent weeks, and underscores the importance of food allergy awareness and understanding. It is unknown why food allergies are on the rise, but it is a fact that they are afflicting more children each year. Food allergies have become a growing health concern for our children. It is not the same world as it was 20 years ago and the same rules do not apply now as they did then. It is important for every parent and caretaker to understand the signs of anaphylatic shock and know what steps to take if it occurs. Anaphylactic shock can be identified by a sudden drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing. According to the MayoClinc, if you suspect someone is going through anaphylactic shock, take the following steps.
- Immediately call 911 or your local medical emergency number.
- Ask the person if he or she is carrying an epinephrine autoinjector to treat an allergic attack (for example, EpiPen, Twinject).
- If the person says he or she needs to use an autoinjector, ask whether you should help inject the medication. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the person's thigh.
- Have the person lie still on his or her back.
- Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Don't give the person anything to drink.
- If there's vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking.
- If there are no signs of breathing, coughing or movement, begin CPR. Do uninterrupted chest presses — about 100 every minute — until paramedics arrive.
- Get emergency treatment even if symptoms start to improve. After anaphylaxis, it's possible for symptoms to recur. Monitoring in a hospital setting for several hours is usually necessary.
Our hearts ache for Maria's family. We hope for answers to their questions and comfort for the days ahead.
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