21-year-old dies from an allergy trigger that we didn’t even know existed

Mar 3, 2015 at 11:42 a.m. ET

Maisie Durant thought she had her nut allergy under control, but after exercising, that was simply not the case. When she finished working out, she grabbed a cereal bar (which she didn't realize contained nuts), and took it home to eat. Once home, she collapsed, and was immediately rushed to the hospital where she died hours later in front of her father. While her condition may be rare, it is a lesson that anyone with allergies should heed — it is possible for exercise to send you into anaphylactic shock.


Maisie, who was only 21 years old when she died, is reported to have suffered anaphylaxis which was brought on by exercise — a rare, but occasionally deadly allergic reaction. The scary thing is her allergy had never been that severe before, so she didn't think she needed to carry an EpiPen. While she has had minor allergic reactions to nuts since she was little, they were always easily managed by taking over-the-counter meds like Piriton tablets. However, once you go into anaphylactic shock, the only thing that can stop it is a quick shot of adrenaline. Unfortunately, by the time paramedics got to Maisie, it was too late for that. Her father watched her collapse and die, and says he will never be able to rid himself of that image.

"I'm not sure anyone can possibly understand what it's like to watch that take place," said Jonathan Durant, Maisie's bereaved father. He describes her as being smart, full of life and the kind of person to which everyone was drawn. Her family set up a JustGiving page in honor of Maisie, and so far more than £45,000 has been pledged to The Anaphylaxis Campaign by both loved ones and strangers alike. Mr. Durant said, "Some people who we don't know have been immensely generous, just because they've got a son or daughter who has come close to the same fate as Maisie." Maisie was exceedingly generous herself. She was an organ donor, and while she could not be saved, her organs saved the lives of three people.

The pledge page is just the beginning for Mr. Durant. He is determined to educate people as much as he can about the dangers of exercise-induced anaphylaxis. I, for one, would like to help him do that. Below you'll find reasons why exercise can trigger this type of allergic reaction followed by common symptoms of anaphylactic shock. If you notice someone displaying any of them, call for help, have them lie down and put their feet up, and get them an EpiPen or an antihistamine immediately.


Why exercise can be a trigger

1. Exercising involves significant movement of the body, which can cause the gut to become "leaky," which in turn helps allergens get into the bloodstream faster, and an elevated heart rate causes it to be pumped around the body at a much quicker rate.

2. Anaphylaxis is a more extreme allergic reaction where the body releases histamine, which can constrict airways, over-stimulate mucous membranes and the cardiovascular system. Any strenuous activity that increases blood flow has the potential to trigger such an allergic shock in someone who's been exposed to an allergen to which they are sensitive.

3. While intense exercise is thought to be the cause of most of these instances, Dr. Stephen Till, a consultant in adult allergy at Guy’s and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London says anaphylactic shock can be triggered by moderate exercise as well: "One patient suffered anaphylaxis when pushing her baby’s pram up a hill — and in many different forms, from laboring on a building site or dancing in a nightclub to taking a walk or going for a run."

4. You can be susceptible to this type of allergic reaction even if you were exposed to the allergen several hours before you exercise.

5. If you're excessively warm, overly stressed and/or have imbibed alcohol before working out, you could be increasing the likelihood of this type of allergic reaction.

Recognize the symptoms

1. Anxiety, rapid heartbeat and feeling of "doom." It is common for people who are about to go into anaphylactic shock to get an uneasy feeling before it occurs. If someone expresses such feelings, don't ignore them.

2. Itching of the eyes or face — this is usually one of the first physical symptoms one experiences during anaphylaxis.

3. Reactions on the skin: a sudden flushing or paling of the skin, and/or the appearance of itchy hives or rash.

4. If someone's complaining of a lump in their throat.

5. Anaphylaxis causes the airways to constrict, so someone who looks like they're having trouble breathing could be going into shock.

6. Sudden dizziness or fainting.

7. Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

8. Warm skin and/or swelling underneath the skin.

9. Enlarged tongue that's impeding breathing.

*If someone is exhibiting more than two of these symptoms, try and find an EpiPen (if they don't already have one), and be ready to use it. If not, call an ambulance, and get them an antihistamine immediately.

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