This is why kissing can cause serious allergic reactions

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Although rare, kissing can cause severe allergic reactions in some people with food allergies. This shows the “kiss of death” of this young woman.

After 27-year-old Janelle Gonzalez, already in bed, said goodbye to her date after a pleasant evening at home, she noticed that her lips and throat were starting to itch. Nothing a Benadryl pill couldn’t fix, she thought, not caring what might have caused the reaction.

But the next morning, Gonzalez woke up with an extremely swollen upper lip — an allergic reaction she usually only experiences when eating shrimp. “I racked my brain and all I could think of was this guy,” she said BuzzFeed News USA and added that she had been talking to him for some time. (This date is definitely on the list of problematic dates that will make you want to break up with Tinder & Co.)

Janelle Gonzalez © Janelle Gonzalez

Kissing is a “third hand” allergic reaction.

A quick text later, Gonzalez learned that her date (who apologized several times) had eaten shrimp fried rice hours before the date. “I was really uncomfortable asking him because I was like, ‘Is this stupid? Can such a thing even be possible?'”

This type of indirect contact can actually occur and trigger an allergic reaction, according to Robert Sporter, a board-certified American allergist. Sometimes reactions can look just as bad as these 31 allergic reactions that are painful to look at. Reason: Dietary proteins can remain in the mouth for some time after a meal. How long they stay there depends on various factors.

However, “third-hand” contact is not as common compared to more direct forms (such as eating or touching food) and usually does not lead to serious reactions such as anaphylaxis. This is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting, fainting and swelling of the lips, throat and face.

Fat-lipped “kiss of death”: Gonzalez posts video on Tiktok

Common causes of allergic reactions are shellfish, peanuts (belonging to legumes), eggs, milk, soy or shellfish, but also drugs such as penicillin or insect bites, cosmetics and latex. There is even an allergy to sunlight, but at least you don’t have to worry about kissing.

Gonzalez, a makeup artist and photographer in New York, said she was “very grateful” her reaction didn’t lead to hospitalization, as she did when she was 18 when she unknowingly ate crab-stuffed mushrooms. In fact, the whole scenario was “hilarious,” she said.

She shared a video of her experience on Tiktok (which she captured a few hours after waking up). It already has over 825,000 views. She also jokingly warned viewers not to “take care of yourselves out there” because “it’s not even safe to hang out with men anymore.” A look at the comments section shows that Gonzalez’s experience may be more common than previously thought.

Allergic reactions from kissing: “They had to cancel the wedding”

“My friend’s sister kissed her fiance the morning of the wedding after eating watermelon and he’s terribly allergic to it. They had to cancel the wedding,” wrote one person. “We found out my husband is allergic to shellfish by kissing,” wrote another.

Some parents may have thought at one point that they could take advantage of the situation. “My parents made my high school boyfriend eat peanut butter before our date so we couldn’t kiss…” one person commented. (Since anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, this seems like a really bad idea. Please don’t try it).

Although allergist Sporter does not believe that intimately kissing someone who has ingested a certain allergen is “the main source of dangerous reactions in most people,” serious reactions are possible. BuzzFeed USA Community she’s already been asked about allergic reactions, and the 15 submitted photos of allergies will make you grimace and show that Gonzalez isn’t alone with her swollen lip.

Severe allergic reactions to kissing are possible

In fact, Gonzalez’s experience is unofficially known as the “kiss of death,” a term popularized in 2005 after it was reported that a 15-year-old girl in Canada had died of a peanut allergy. Her boyfriend was believed to have eaten peanut butter before kissing her. However, the girl’s cause of death was revoked a year later. According to the coroner, it was an asthma attack. The 27-year-old also dies of asthma – an incident that shows just how dangerous working in the cannabis industry can be.

Similar events are reported in other case reports. In 2003, a 20-year-old woman nearly died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten shrimp less than an hour earlier. Less than a minute after the kiss, she experienced swelling of her lips and throat, abdominal cramps, wheezing, nausea, hives and low blood pressure. The woman worked in a fish restaurant and regularly showed mild reactions to the various dishes she was served. The researchers therefore speculated that over time, these mild reactions may have primed their immune systems for a strong response to the kiss.

Allergic reactions ‘intimacy-related’ ‘extremely rare’ – but possibly underrepresented

In 2012, a 20-year-old girl died after kissing her boyfriend who was eating a peanut butter sandwich. In 2021, a teenager died a day after receiving oral satisfaction from another teen who ate peanut butter before they met. The two never kissed, according to researchers. Also, a condom was not worn, suggesting that allergens can be spread through mouth-to-skin contact.

The researchers said that allergic reactions “related to intimacy” are “extremely rare” but that they may be underrepresented due to social stigma, misdiagnosis and lack of awareness. Allergists recommend that all allergy sufferers, especially those with severe allergies, carry an epinephrine injection pen (like an EpiPen) and wear an item such as a MedicAlert bracelet that has their medical information written on it in case of a reaction to epinephrine in the public. .

Screenshot from Janelle Gonzalez' Chat
Mystery Solved © Janelle Gonzalez

The reason why allergic reactions occur

Generally, a person does not react to a particular allergen when first exposed to it because their cells are not yet “sensitized” to it, Sporter said. Instead, the body responds by making special antibodies called IgE. Even with Corona, the body creates antibodies. This is what happens in your body when you get infected with Corona multiple times.

The next time such people are exposed to the same allergen, those IgE antibodies are activated and trigger the immune system’s mast cells to release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream, making them itch, sneeze and so on, Sporter said. This is a quick process that usually takes a few seconds to minutes. Taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl can help stop the reaction. As previously mentioned, life-threatening reactions require an injection of epinephrine.

What types of allergic reactions are there?

The most serious type of reaction is when you eat the substance you are allergic to, but touching the substance can also cause a reaction such as an itchy rash. This can happen directly when someone allergic to eggs touches a yolk that has fallen on the kitchen counter, or indirectly when a mother who has just eaten peanut butter kisses her allergic toddler on the cheek.

Exposure to an airborne allergen is also possible. This sometimes happens when passengers open packages of peanuts on airplanes or when someone cooks shellfish. (Many airlines have stopped serving in-flight peanuts for this reason.)

“On the other hand, passionate kissing with saliva can resemble actual eating,” explained Scott Sicherer, M.D., chief of allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai Pediatrics, in an email to BuzzFeed News USA. “The consequences would depend on the amount of allergen in the saliva of the person who ate the food, how much was transferred to the person with the allergy, and how sensitive the person with the allergy is to the allergen.”

Implants are also sometimes rejected by the body. In rare cases, worse things happen: Here’s what you need to know about breast implants if you’re considering getting one.

Brushing your teeth, rinsing and chewing gum will help against allergens in your mouth

Sicherer and colleagues conducted a study on people without a peanut allergy and confirmed that peanut protein was abundant in those who ate a peanut butter sandwich, but the amount varied from person to person.

It found that brushing, rinsing, chewing gum, and simply waiting more than an hour after eating a peanut butter sandwich “resulted in no peanut allergens remaining in saliva, but some were not 100 percent gone,” making it safer. . If the subjects waited several hours and then ate more food (without the allergen), the peanut protein was eliminated.

Experts recommend that you discuss your allergies with your partner or other people who cook for you or share food with you. And of course anyone you want to exchange saliva or other bodily fluids with. You should also clean your mouth as thoroughly as possible before kissing others, as this may help.

“Hey, you have STDs – oh, and have you ever eaten shrimp?”

It’s also never okay to intentionally consume or interact with an allergen just because you know you can take an antihistamine shortly before or after, Sporter said. Allergies come and go on their own, so it’s best to avoid known allergens altogether or see a doctor for appropriate testing.

It took Gonzalez two full days for her lip to return to normal size. The experience, Gonzalez says, “definitely opened her eyes” and made her wonder if it’s worth asking herself that question before getting involved with new people. “Is that a new thing on my list to ask on a date?” Gonzalez said. “‘Hey, you have STDs – oh, and have you ever eaten shrimp?’

Want to read more about unusual physical reactions? Did you know that Corona can cause unusual psychoses?

Authored by Katie Camero. Article appeared on on October 5, 2022. Translated from English by Mine Hacibekiroglu.

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