Peanut Allergy Kills Inmate

21 04 2008

I have always been thankful that I don’t have a peanut allergy.  WWMT in Kalamazoo is reporting a Montcalm County inmate died on Sunday after eating a peanut butter sandwich while in custody.

Paul Thurston was arrested on an assault charge early Sunday and was lodged in the county jail.

At lunch he was served a peanut butter sandwich and had a severe allergic reaction. He was treated by the duty jail nurse, correctional staff and Montcalm County EMS before being transported to Sheridan Hospital where he later died.

Jail authorities say that Thurston was asked if he had any allergies during his booking procedure, but he did not inform them of his allergy.

If the inmate didn’t say anything, it’s hard to put blame on the sheriff’s department.  According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America peanut allergies affect only 2% of the population but is the most common cause due to food causing 80% of fatal or near fatal allergic reactions every year.

Three things characterize peanut hypersensitivity:

  • Reactions can be extremely violent and life threatening with just a little exposure to the allergen.
  • This allergy likely to persist throughout life.
  • It is often associated with other non-legume allergies (tree nuts, or certain seeds for example) and seed allergy. Peanut and tree nut allergic reactions coexist in one third of peanut allergic patients

The Mayo Clinic provide more insight on the cause of peanut allergies.

Peanut allergy is caused by an immune system malfunction. Your immune system identifies peanuts as harmful triggering the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the peanut protein (allergen). The next time you come in contact with peanuts, these IgE antibodies recognize it and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream.

I always chuckled a little bit when I would go into a school and see signs for a “Peanut Free Zone,” but as you can see from this story, it’s really not a laughing matter.  It’s sad and unfortunate that there’s a whole group of people out there that will never enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or be able to go to a baseball game and have a vendor toss a bag of peanuts half way across the stadium to you.