First-Year College Student Dies of Severe Allergic Reaction

in Food Allergy
Published: September 19, 2015
Andrea Mariano
Andrea Mariano

Updated Sept. 23/15: A Canadian university student in her first year of studies has died of a severe allergic reaction.

Andrea Mariano, 18, who had just begun studying arts and sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, passed away on Sept. 18, 2015.

Andrea’s grieving family, who live in Thornhill, Ontario, said the cause of death was anaphylaxis. Andrea had known peanut and dairy allergies.

Hedellaine Valentin, the student’s cousin, told Global-TV News that the severe allergic reaction occurred after Andrea ordered a smoothie on campus. The teen was not carrying either of her two epinephrine auto-injectors, according to Valentin. The report also suggested that her reaction was so severe epinephrine would not have made a difference.

Prompt Use of Drug Important in Severe Allergic Reactions

“Epinephrine is the first-line treatment of choice for anaphylaxis, hands down,” said Dr. Anne Ellis, chair of the division of allergy and immunology at Queen’s University’s school of medicine, when she spoke to Allergic Living on Sept 23, 2015.

Ellis, director of the Allergy Research Unit of Kingston General Hospital, wasn’t at liberty to discuss the specifics of Andrea’s death. However, she noted that medical research shows not getting epinephrine as soon as a reaction is apparent is “the most consistent risk factor for severe allergic reactions, and for fatalities.” She went on to say that cases where epinephrine isn’t effective against anaphylaxis don’t happen often.

“It’s rare. Usually these cases are in circumstances where there has been a significant delay in the initial administration of epinephrine,” Ellis said. “I’m sure we could find in medical literature cases where epinephrine was given promptly and in the proper doses, where the allergic reaction was so severe that no matter what we did, it wasn’t enough. But fortunately these cases are rare.”

And if an initial dosage isn’t working? Should another be given? “Absolutely,” Ellis said. “If you’re not seeing a response to the first injection of epinephrine, within five minutes, you should give it again.”

The coroner of Eastern Ontario is investigating the death of Andrea, but would not confirm any of the circumstances surrounding it at this time.

College Reminds of Support

The Queen’s Gazette newspaper reports that flags were lowered to half mast in the student’s honor. The family’s church parish expressed condolences to her parents and sister, and said Andrea died “surrounded by the love and prayers of her family, friends, and her spiritual family.”

Queen’s has also released a statement, outlining the policies the university has in place to protect students with allergies from anaphylaxis. It said:

“The university does offer a number of services and supports designed to guide students who live with or experience allergies and other health challenges. Those services include signage in our dining halls, as well as personal meetings with our campus executive chef in order to provide students with guidance when it comes to eating on campus.”

While anaphylaxis deaths from severe allergic reactions are not common, Allergic Living has reported on studies showing the highest rates of food allergy fatalities are among young adults. The magazine’s editors ask that you remind college students with food or sting allergies to:
– be vigilant about allergy safety precautions;
– carry epinephrine auto-injectors at all times;
– and use epinephrine immediately if they think they may be experiencing anaphylaxis.

Related Reading:
How Does Epinephrine Turn Off an Allergic Reaction?
College and Food Allergies Resources Hub
3 Young Men Die of Anaphylaxis in Nov. 2014