Killed by a kiss: woman's death prompts new concerns about severe peanut allergies
Published Tuesday, June 7, 2016 9:48PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 8, 2016 12:52PM EDT
A Sherbrooke mother hopes her daughter's 2012 death will help send a clear message about severe allergies.
Myriam Ducré-Lemay was 20 years old and hadn’t told her boyfriend she was severely allergic to peanuts.
They kissed after he had eaten a peanut butter sandwich, and it proved fatal for the young woman.
The coroner's report said she was without her Epipen or Medic Alert bracelet and had not told her boyfriend of her allergy.
The coroner's report also indicated that Ducré-Lemay had told people she believed her allergic sensitivity had decreased.
If this sounds familiar, it's because a similar incident was initially believed to have happened in 2005.
In that case 15-year-old Christina Desforges of Saguenay died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich nine hours earlier.
That death made headlines around the world -- but it turned out that her death had nothing to do with her allergy.
Coroner Michel Miron determined that Christina suffered a severe asthma attack after smoking pot, spending hours in a room with people smoking, and having what the coroner called "intense physical activity" with her boyfriend.
Christina was known to have severe asthma attacks, and had needed urgent medical care for asthma at least twice in the past six months.
According to Dr. McCusker, head of pediatric allergy, immunology and dermatology at the Montreal's Children Hospital, in the years since Desforges' death researchers have studied how long peanut allergens can remain in a person's saliva.
Studies show peanut allergens can last in a mouth for about four hours, and perhaps as little as half an hour if a person brushes their teeth.
Micheline Ducré hopes her daughter's death will convince others with severe allergies to discuss their condition, and to warn others.
Milo Burko's family has had to alter their habits after he was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.
"When my friends are eating like, I want it but I can't have it, so it makes me feel a bit sad," said Milo.
When his mother, Donna Litvack, learned of Ducré-Lemay's death she had new concerns.
That's when she realized that her son's understanding of his allergy was not complete.
"[He said] "'the girl I kiss, as long as she has a peanut allergy everything, will be fine,' and I said 'No Milo, that's not the case. The person has to have the exact same type of allergy as you,'" said Litvack.
According to Dr. Christine McCusker, the key to managing severe food allergies is to tell people and to always, always carry an Epipen.
"You have to say, 'Listen guys, I've got food allergies, I've got my Epipen, if there is a problem, help me,'" she said.
She said that children and young adults, aged 15 to 30, are most at risk of having anaphylactic shock.
"They're spending less time under the watchful eye of their parents. They're taking a few more risks and they're not as likely to be carrying their Epipens," said Dr. McCusker.
"The second risk factor is the delay in getting epinephrine."
It only takes minutes for a person with a severe allergic reaction to stop breathing, and by that time it may be too late for an epinephrine shot to work
"Which is why you always have to carry your Epipen even though you don't want to, and even though it's not cool," said Dr. McCusker.
People who have asthma, especially those who feel the need to carry an inhaler, are most likely to have a severe reaction.
For more tips to avoid severe allergy attacks, particularly for teens and young adults, watch McCusker's extended interview (above).