Kiss Me Deadly!

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Q: Can someone who is allergic to a food die from kissing someone who just ate that food?

A:  A few years ago, there was a big story in the news about a woman with a peanut allergy who supposedly died after kissing her boyfriend who had just eaten a food with peanuts in it.  It turns out that this was more of an urban myth – the woman actually died of another cause, but I guess the idea of a “deadly kiss” was too good of a story to pass up.

We just heard a presentation from the allergy experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and they did tell us stories of moms who just ate a Reese’s Peanut butter Cup giving their child a big hive on their cheek after kissing them, and people walking into a restaurant with peanut shells on the floor (like 5 Guys Burgers and Fries) and just the peanut dust in the air causing them to have a wheezing reaction.  The key factor is the amount of protein you’re exposed to.  So theoretically if you’re boyfriend just ate a whole handful of peanuts and you guys immediately start playing some serious tonsil hockey, you could be in trouble.  But to date no one has been kissed to death.

However, food allergies – especially to peanuts and shellfish – can be life threatening so it is absolutely (and literally) vital for you to be careful.  If you’re allergic to peanuts or other tree nuts, you should:

  • Avoid bakeries, ice cream parlors and Asian restaurants
  • ALWAYS ask about food ingredients and read labels when eating food you didn’t prepare
  • Wear a bracelet or necklace that identifies the type of allergy you have
  • Have an EpiPen with you at all times and make sure you know how to use it! (I’ve taken care of more than one person who in the heat of the moment held the pen backwards and injected their thumbs, and since epinephrine makes blood vessels constrict that makes for a nervous 20 minutes waiting to see if the blood flow returns to the digit).

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has a great website with more information about food allergies.  In addition, allergy testing services are available through the Wilce Student Health Center.  If you have any questions or concerns, call us at 614-292-4321 to schedule an appointment. 

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)