An Edmonton man’s death from exposure to walnut particles on the job highlights the need to make life-saving medications such as epinephrine more readily available, advocates say.
“I think it’s very important that anyone who’s having a reaction have access to epinephrine immediately,” Food Allergy Canada spokesperson Beatrice Povolo said.
“In situations where they do not have a device, or a second dose might be required, it is definitely beneficial to have stock epinephrine available in various public areas.”
On Oct. 2, Justin Mathews was doing contract work at the Rossdale fire station, where crews had been sandblasting using walnut particles. The 33-year-old started having trouble breathing and went into anaphylactic shock. He was rushed to hospital and taken off life support five days later.
Mathews’ family doesn’t know where his EpiPen was at the time, but said with the exception of one hospital visit, he had been able to control his allergic reactions using oral antihistamines.
Dr. David Huang, who specializes in clinical immunology and allergy, said a fast response is crucial to severe allergic reactions.
“The earlier you administer epinephrine, the faster and more effective it is. As soon as signs emerge… people should not hesitate to use it. People should be very familiar with how EpiPens should be administered.”
Mathews’ family is calling for EpiPens to be made available in public spaces. The City of Edmonton said on Monday that city facilities do not have EpiPens or the epinephrine drug.
Povolo said Hamilton, Ont. recently equipped all of its public community centres and facilities with epinephrine. And in Quebec, a restaurant chain stocks the drug at all its locations, she added.
“We would definitely recommend that various organizations or companies do look at that option as part of their First-Aid kit,” she said.
Povolo also believes the more information you can provide people with severe allergies, the better, and not just when it comes to food products.
“Looking at other products, as well, that individuals do purchase — whether they’re self-care products, cosmetics and other things that may potentially have allergens — is also quite important,” she explained.
“I think that in general, ensuring more information is always better in terms of potential allergens that people can be exposed to. I think that’s a key takeaway point, as well as ensuring that people with allergies carry their device and use it at the first sign of a reaction.”
Mathews’ family also wants to see material safety data sheets on the sandblasting product to warn people of the allergen.
Occupational Health and Safety has launched an investigation to see if all necessary precautions were taken at the site. The City of Edmonton said it is cooperating with the investigation.
Alberta Health said it needs to wait for the results of the OHS investigation before making any recommendations.
Watch below: The family of a 33-year-old Edmonton man speaks out about the danger of airborne nut particles after he died when he was exposed to an allergen on a worksite. (Filed Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017).
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