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  08.17.2010  
 


A bad adventure for a brand new cruise ship

Food Allergies on Cruises

By Paul Motter

A young man was hit by a severe food allergy reaction and passed away on Norwegian Epic Saturday night. According to reports, a "code alpha" was broadcast throughout the ship during the evening's entertainment. Certain passengers with the same last name were instructed to call "00" which is the number for reception. The ship turned around about an hour later, when it was about 40 miles from shore, to return to Miami.

The victim was a young man - only 21 years old. He apparently had a severe food allergy and ate something on the ship which put him into a severe anaphylactic shock. This type of shock can cause a constriction of the airways and extremely low blood pressure.

The ship arrived in Miami at almost exactly midnight Sunday morning. It is reported that several policemen did board the ship - apparently to eliminate the possibility of foul play, or possibly to keep the peace among some confused and frightened family members.

The body of the 21 year old man, covered by a white sheet, was taken off the ship by gurney but not until about 1:30 according to reports. The ship resumed sailing near 2:30 a.m. and it is reported the rest of the cruise will proceed as scheduled.

What happened?

If a person has a severe food allergy it is logically their own responsibility to make sure they do not eat the wrong food. I mean, how many times has a waiter ever asked if you have a food allergy before you dined? Actually, I can only think of one place where that ever happening to me in my entire life.

It was on Norwegian Epic. The chef at Teppanyaki, the Japanese restaurant where the food is cooked in front of everyone, asked every single person at our table, individually, (12 of us) if we had any food allergies. That indicates to me that NCL does take food allergies very seriously. So I am waiting somewhat anxiously to hear further details on how this occurred.

It was news to me that a food allergy can cause a heart attack, but it can. I happen to have an allergy to shrimp, which did not even appear until I was in my 30s. I get tiny hives on my lips and cheek, but only after I have eaten four or five large shrimp. I love shrimp tempura, and I know I actually ate some shrimp at that table that night. I remember that Roberto Martinoli, an EVP of Norwegian Cruise Lines sitting next to me, said to me "didn't you say you are allergic to shrimp?" when I did so. "I can have a few before it kicks in" I told him. I don't think I will be tempting fate like that anymore.

In fact, just as my allergy did not show up for years, allergies can change during a person's lifetime, becoming more or less acute at any time. I never carry any medicine for my shrimp allergy. I never even thought about doing that, but in fact about 125 Americans die from food allergy reactions every year.

Here is a medical definition of Anaphylactic shock: A widespread and very serious allergic reaction where symptoms include hives and itching, chest tightness and labored breathing, swelling of the tongue and breathing tubes, blueness of the skin, low blood pressure, heart failure and death.

The blueness of the lips indicates that oxygen is not being circulated through the body.

The treatment is a quick does of epinephrine, a hormone that stimulates the heart and relaxes the airways. People with allergies should carry a self-injection kit for emergency treatment. A standard brand name that is familiar to people with such allergies is the Epipen.

Epipen is an auto-injector of epinephrine which should be administered into the outer thigh through the clothing. It should not be put into a vein or into the buttocks. When using, one should hold the pen in the thigh for ten seconds, withdraw and massage the spot for ten seconds.

If you do not have an Epipen, the immediate and continual administration of CPR is recommended. Recent studies have shown that chest compression is the most important part of CPR since in most cases the blood will already have enough oxygen in it to keep a patient's brain alive. Continuous chest compression for as long as necessary, starting immediately and without stopping, is what I was recently told by my physician is the most effective type of CPR. He sent this link to me:

http://tinyurl.com/2fx8r59

If a person has an allergic reaction to a food, the immediate response is critical, but so is follow-up care. The patient needs to be watched for at least eight to 24 hours. The initial allergic reaction may not be the only one. A secondary reaction can occur at any time.

We do not yet have any details on what exactly happened in this case, but one thing is sure - one should always take food allergies seriously.

You can discuss this article in our CruiseMates Forums: Allergy Death on Epic


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