Fish cook­ing fumes may have caused boy’s fa­tal al­ler­gic re­ac­tion

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Nation & World - By Karen Matthews

NEW YORK — Fumes from cook­ing fish com­bined with asthma could have killed an 11-year-old boy in New York City but such a death would be rare, med­i­cal au­thor­i­ties say.

The city med­i­cal ex­am­iner has yet to rule on what caused the death of Cameron Jean-Pierre on New Year’s Day, but al­lergy ex­perts said it’s pos­si­ble the boy could have suf­fered a fa­tal re­ac­tion to fish cook­ing in his grand­mother’s kitchen.

“It’s ex­tremely rare,” said Dr. Wayne Shref­fler, direc­tor of the Food Al­lergy Cen­ter at Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hospi­tal. “Most of­ten it’s an is­sue for pa­tients who also have asthma, and prob­a­bly not very well con­trolled asthma.”

Cameron did have asthma and was al­ler­gic to fish and peanuts, his fa­ther, Steven Jean-Pierre, said Fri­day.

The boy and his fa­ther were vis­it­ing rel­a­tives in Brook­lyn on Tues­day when Cameron was stricken, ap­par­ently af­ter in­hal­ing aro­mas from a tra­di­tional Caribbean fish dish that his grand­mother and aunt were cook­ing.

Steven Jean-Pierre told The As­so­ci­ated Press that he used a neb­u­lizer to ad­min­is­ter med­i­ca­tion to Cameron, but the breath­ing treat­ment was not ef­fec­tive as it had been in the past.

“Out of nowhere he just said, ‘Daddy, for some rea­son it’s not work­ing,’ ” the fa­ther said. “He felt like it wasn’t giv­ing him enough air. And that’s when I called 911.”

Po­lice said the boy was taken to Brook­dale Med­i­cal Cen­ter, where he was pro­nounced dead.

Cameron’s last words were words of love, his fa­ther said. “He took the mask off his face and said, ‘Daddy, I have to tell you some­thing.’ He said, ‘Daddy, I love you. Daddy, I love you,’ ” Steven Jean-Pierre said.

Shref­fler said al­ler­gic re­ac­tions are caused by pro­teins in a spe­cific food, which nor­mally would have to be in­gested to trig­ger a re­ac­tion.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the smell of food is not suf­fi­cient,” he said. But he added, “res­pi­ra­tory re­ac­tions re­lated to fish, anec­do­tally, do seem to stand out.”

Dr. Jay Lieber­man, vice chair­man of the food al­lergy com­mit­tee of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Al­lergy, Asthma and Im­munol­ogy, said that’s be­cause pro­teins in fish can be aerosolized by cook­ing.

“I live in the South where a lot of peo­ple fry fish,” said Lieber­man, an al­lergy and im­munol­ogy spe­cial­ist at Le Bon­heur Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal in Mem­phis. “If a child is fish al­ler­gic, I tell the fam­ily that if they’re go­ing to fry fish in the house, the child has to be in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent room.”

Lieber­man said he’s treated pa­tients who ex­pe­ri­enced symp­toms like hives and itch­ing af­ter breath­ing va­pors from fry­ing fish but he’s never seen a fa­tal re­ac­tion.

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