We all know that poisons and toxins can kill. I’ve blogged about those often, and such lethal chemicals create interesting focal points for murder scenes and the basis for enticing murder plots.
But an unsettling reality is that normal foods can kill also. We’ve seen news reports of contaminated food products being recalled because the food contained lethal bacteria.
However, there’s another side to the story of lethal foods. Food allergy issues can cause severe allergic reactions, and the statistics on such reactions are staggering.
Food allergies affect over 15 million Americans, and every three minutes a food allergy sends an American citizen to the emergency room.
One in 13 children are included in this category—roughly two in an average American classroom—and nearly 40% of these children have experienced a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. This rapidly progressing allergic reaction, if left untreated, would likely lead to death with initial symptoms that include a severe rash, plummeting blood pressure, swelling in the oral mucosa and closure of the airways.
When a severe food allergy leads to anaphylaxis in a child, the entire family is impacted. The best prevention is knowledge and preparation, and every parent should go to Anaphylaxis 101 for a short education regarding food allergies, what symptoms to look for and what to do if a severe reaction should occur.
Researchers tell us that the numbers of people with food allergies are increasing significantly—an 18% jump in the decade between 1997 and 2007—and that peanut allergies have tripled. Scientists theorize that our “cleaner society” prevents our children from being exposed to the common environmental and food-borne irritants that older generations experienced, and that fact may explain the increase in allergic events.
Besides peanuts, some of the more common causes of severe food allergies include shellfish, wheat, soy, milk and eggs.
In 2012, the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization was established to address the need for a cure to lethal food allergies. The focus of FARE is increased awareness of this growing problem and the need for increased education about the impact of food allergies.
Having lived through a severe, nearly lethal allergic reaction to a medication when I was a child, I have personal knowledge that an anaphylactic reaction is a frightening experience—one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
As a writer, however, I can tap into that frightening experience and use severe food and drug allergies as the basis for murder scenes. We only have to search through news articles to find creative ways to use severe allergies as a murder weapon.
In researching such articles, I found that a husband tried to kill his wife by smearing a door handle with peanut oil to trigger the wife’s severe allergy to peanuts. Another tapped into the fact that his ex-wife was severely allergic to latex and inserted a latex-gloved finger into her mouth until she had a life-threatening reaction. Both husbands were arrested and charged: the first with criminal harassment and the second with attempted murder.
However, recent statistical data tell us that a person is more likely to be murdered than to die of a food allergy. As murder mystery writers, we can certainly increase those odds by combining the two into one spectacular event.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
Found you again! Thanks for this useful article. My wife and I both have sensitivities to some foods. It’s taken a while to discover them on our own. Sadly, far too few physicians have training in nutrition and some are even unwilling (often even hostile) to discuss the links between foods/nutrition and health issues. Perhaps that’s because it would disclose their ignorance. Sadly, they seem more inclined to write prescriptions for symptoms than to invest the time to disgnose and treat the causes behind health challenges. Thanks again!
Hi Jim: Glad you found me again and thanks for your comments. All the best to you!
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