Could The Epinephrine Have Killed Her?

I had an email from a teacher who was curious about the death of Natalie Giorgio (the 13 year old who died after eating a rice krispie treat made with peanut butter). 

Natalie had a known peanut allergy.  She took a bite of the treat and immediately suspected she shouldn't have and brought it to her mom.  Her mom agreed that there was peanut butter in the treat. 

They waited to see what would happen - was that the fatal mistake???  Some are saying that is the reason why she died: Delaying administration of the epinephrine.    

Here is her question:

This is so tragic, I feel for the family so much.  Melissa, did this happen because the epi's were applied too late?  That they can be ineffective if not administered immediately??  I am curious as to why they may have waited if they knew there was peanut butter.  Even IF there was any doubt one would give the epi's anyway wouldn't one?  Do you have any ideas??  I'm just trying to understand this situation.
Here was my response to Jane:

My allergist has told me that most of the deaths due to allergies occur with people who had a known allergy and failed to administer epi or delayed administration.  There was another death recently where the boy also received the dose later and died.   In the event that a known allergen is ingested they recommend IMMEDIATE ADMINISTRATION OF EPI.

My mom is anaphylactic to bee stings...

Her and I were discussing the tragedy of this case and the fact that they gave 3 epi-pens.  My mother mentioned that when she was in hospital the doctors told her it would be dangerous to give her any more epinephrine.  Could 3 doses have been too much?

So many questions..

  • Why did they wait?
  • It is said she started to show signs of a reaction 20 minutes after ingesting the treat.  Did they administer the epipen immediately upon these symptoms or did they wait longer?
  • Could the epi-pens have caused her death?  Were 3 doses too much? 
What do you think?  What would you do?  If you or your child ingested a known allergen do you think you would delay administering the epi-pen or would you give it right away?  Are you afraid to administer epinephrine?

Are the "experts" on the same page??

One of the things that I am noticing is that all of us are getting different answers from the doctors.  Some are being told to give benadryl and epi.   Some are told never to give benadryl for anaphylaxis.  Some are told to wait and see and others are told administer immediately.

My advice? 

Give epi immediately for known ingestion of a food allergen.

One more piece of advice if I may...

The common thread I see in most of the allergy deaths is that people are eating food that they have not prepared themselves.  We have a rule for our daughter that she is only allowed to eat food that I or her father has prepared.  Even still, we fear mislabeling on food ingredients and undeclared allergens or the risk of cross-contamination.    We all do our best to keep our children safe.

Let's support each other, not JUDGE...

It saddens me when I see the comments below articles such as the one of Natalie's death where members of our allergy community criticize the family for their actions and inactions.  Really?!!  Come on.  In the support group I host I advocate for non-judgement.  Those parents were doing the best they could for their daughter and they are now sharing their story with the press to publicize this death to promote advocacy and education or the public on the severity of these food allergies.  I send them my love and prayers.

1 comment:

  1. Melissa - I know this comment will be a bit old. I'm a little confused by the tongue-lashing you've given your readers by "judging" the parents of Natalie Giorgio. I for one feel the questions asked are very valid questions. Here's why: my 7-year-old daughter just went through a very serious anaphylaxis episode by taking a bite of a macadamia nut cookie at VBS. We honestly didn't know how serious her allergy was, because the bottom line is no one took the time to thoroughly educate us and I was simply following what I "thought" was the right course of treatment for her. I have spent the last two weeks since reading up on stories, studies, and looking at more information about anaphylaxis and food allergies than I ever cared to. I'm so grateful I did, because I found out that many food allergy patients do indeed die when Epinephrine isn't administered correctly. It's not to throw a shame grenade at anyone - especially those who have tragically lost their child to such a horrible tragedy. However, I was hoping to find valuable information amongst those Moms who "get it" and have "lived it." Would Natalie have lived had Epinephrine been administered sooner rather than later? None of us will ever know, but I'm grateful to conclude that when it comes to my daughter and should this ever happen again - it will be administered with known or even suspected ingestion immediately. Peace.


You're awesome! Thanks for sharing your comment!