Lessons to be learned from the William Luckett Inquest

Once again, world attention is focused on the story of a 15 year old boy from the UK who died of peanut cross-contact. Rather than focus solely on the incident itself, we’ll highlight common sense strategies to help avoid tragedies like this in the first place.

Background

William Luckett had had his first food allergy reaction at four years old and was diagnosed with a nut allergy at age six. At that time he was given a prescription for epinephrine auto-injectors which he never needed to use. Over time, with the absence of reactions, the family stopped filling the prescriptions.

In December 2012, William was visiting his father on the Isle of Wight and was having ribs for dinner, takeout from a local Chinese restaurant. He began experiencing classic symptoms of anaphylaxis: difficulty breathing and swelling of the lips. Despite his father’s efforts, William lost consciousness and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.

The incident is one of a series of deaths reported recently from reactions to food prepared at restaurants in the UK.

Lessons

There are a number of takeaways from the incident which may very well have avoided the anaphylactic reaction that claimed William or may have ameliorated his symptoms enough to save his life:

  • Don’t Assume a Cure – William had the benefit of a definitive diagnosis of food allergy at a young age, allowing his family to plan meals and otherwise avoid his allergens. The problem was  one of complacency: given that he did not suffer a subsequent reaction and never had to use his auto-injector, the family assumed his allergy had resolved or diminished on its own.

    Once diagnosed with a food allergy, never assume it has diminished on its own as only a medical professional can make such a determination. Despite a history of mild reactions or none at all, severe reactions can strike an allergic individual without warning. Simply put, assume you have a severe food allergy until a medical professional with the proper credentials tells you otherwise.

  • Beware of Food Prepared by Others – When accommodating an individual with food allergy, take special care when consuming food prepared elsewhere. Follow procedures to ensure appropriate care is taken to avoid cross-contact and avoid cuisines where your allergen is prevalent.

    In William’s case, Chinese restaurants in general should have been avoided because peanuts and tree nuts are prevalent in the cuisine, and this particular restaurant should have been avoided because they displayed a warning of possible nut content.

  • Take 2 auto-injectors along everywhere, every time – Frequent visitors to SnackSafely.com know that we are fanatics about having epinephrine on-hand at all times. In this case, epinephrine administered at the time William first began experiencing symptoms might very well have saved his life. Though we will never know for sure, we do know that not having epinephrine on-hand never saved anyone’s life.

    School zoneTo help you remember and help spread the word, download flyers from our Take 2 Campaign and post them in your home and at your child’s doctor’s office, school and camp.

Let’s take all the precautions necessary to ensure that William’s legacy is one of increased vigilance on the part of families coping with food allergy!

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