Jennifer ate shellfish for decades. One day, she was rushed to emergency after a prawn dumpling lunch
- Tuesday, October 17, 2023 - 9:00 AM
For 39 years, Jennifer Sims enjoyed prawn toast, battered calamari and shrimp fried rice.
But Sims’ fondness for seafood almost killed her this year: a prawn dumpling at a work lunch triggered an anaphylactic reaction, and an ambulance raced her to hospital.
“In the restaurant, I started getting tingly lips,” she recalled. “I started feeling really sick.”
By the time Sims arrived at the emergency department on May 11, her face was covered in hives and she was wheezing.
Melbourne premiership defender Steven May is also among this group: the footballer spent a night in hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to food during a night out with his partner.
It is believed it was the first time the 31-year-old had experienced an allergic reaction.
A new registry to be piloted next year by the National Allergy Centre of Excellence hopes to shed light on the prevalence of adult-onset food allergies in Australia. It will require participating hospitals to record additional details of patients who present to the emergency department with acute allergies, including their potential allergy and whether it’s the first time they’ve had a reaction.
The centre’s director, Professor Kirsten Perrett, suspects cases of adult-onset food allergies are being fuelled by exposure to a broader range of allergens and a breakdown of our immune system’s tolerance to them.
She said this breakdown may be caused by changing environmental factors, such as reduced exposure to microbes thanks to our clean lifestyles, and low vitamin D levels due to decreased sun exposure.
“More research is needed,” Perrett said. “It’s really fascinating.”
“Every year, around Christmas, people get severe anaphylactic reactions to shrimp and prawns without previously realising they were allergic,” said Professor Andreas Lopata, a James Cook University food allergy expert and chief investigator with the Centre for Food Allergy Research.
Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald
Hear Professor Kirsten Perrett on 2GB Healthy Living