Fatal food-induced anaphylaxis

JAMA. 1988 Sep 9;260(10):1450-2.


Fatal food-induced anaphylaxis is rarely reported. In 16 months, we identified seven such cases involving five males and two females, aged 11 to 43 years. All victims were atopic with multiple prior anaphylactic episodes after ingestion of the incriminated food (peanut, four; pecan, one; crab, one; fish, one). In six cases the allergenic food was ingested away from home. Factors contributing to the severity of individual reactions included denial of symptoms, concomitant intake of alcohol, reliance on oral antihistamines alone to treat symptoms, and adrenal suppression by chronic glucocorticoid therapy for coexisting asthma. In no case was epinephrine administered immediately after onset of symptoms. Premortem or postmortem serum samples were available from six victims; in each case elevated levels of IgE antibodies to the incriminated food were demonstrated. Food-sensitive individuals must self-administer epinephrine promptly at the first sign of systemic reaction. Emergency care providers should be aware of cricothyrotomy as a life-saving procedure.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anaphylaxis / etiology*
  • Anaphylaxis / immunology
  • Anaphylaxis / mortality
  • Animals
  • Arachis / adverse effects
  • Brachyura
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Male
  • Nuts / adverse effects
  • Radioimmunoassay


  • Immunoglobulin E