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The Allergy Mystery

February 05, 2019


From the NY Times:
A 57 year old man suffered from two severe allergic episodes when he had only ever experienced one before. His wife found him directly after one episode that left his face swollen, skin dark purple, and barely able to breath. His son was able to inject him with his father's EpiPen, something he had only ever had to use once before. 
Aside from some childhood trouble with penicillin he had never had any issues with allergies in his life until two years prior to that horrible reaction. He had a steroid shot injected into the spinal area which caused him to go into anaphylaxis. When the recent second attack occurred it was directly after he ingested a liquid laxative. When the third attack occurred it was because of a different brand of laxative that he also needed to drink. Deciding to take matters into his own hands he began comparing the chemical ingredients contained in the laxatives and steroids in order to try to identify a common ingredient. He found that sodium chloride and polyethylene glycol (PEG) were the only two common ingredients. 
He brought this information to an allergy specialist and to their surprise he was right! PEG along with one of its chemical cousins, polysorbate 80. As it turns out both ingredients are commonly used in laxatives and steroids. 
Chicago Allergy & Asthma wants you to understand precisely what you're allergic to because it is vital as a preventative measure as well as carrying an EpiPen!