A model was left paralyzed after a severe allergic reaction to a peanut butter pretzel

Gabby Landsverk,Keyaira Kelly
·3 min read
Kirkland peanut better pretzels
Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider
  • Model Chantel Giacalone was paralyzed after an allergic reaction to a peanut butter pretzel in 2013.

  • Giacalone is quadriplegic and can only communicate with her eyes.

  • Her family was awarded $29.5 million after a jury ruled the ambulance service provided improper care.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

An actress and model has been awarded nearly $30 million in damages after suffering permanent brain damage from an allergic reaction to a peanut butter pretzel, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Chantel Giacalone was working at a fashion trade show in Las Vegas in 2013, when she bit into a frozen yogurt topped with the pretzel, and it sent her into anaphylactic shock. Paramedics responding to the scene treated her with intramuscular epinephrine, but did not have the intravenous version of the medication, which first responders in the state are required to carry for severe allergic reactions.

Because Giacalone was not given epinephrine through an IV, her brain was deprived of oxygen for minutes, her lawyer Christian Morris said.

Now 35, Giacalone is quadriplegic, can only communicate with her eyes, and requires 24-hour care, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Giacalone was awarded the money on April 9 after a jury found that paramedics did not provide adequate treatment. Giacalone's family said that the money from the lawsuit will be used to pay for her continued care, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Epinephrine disperses in the body more quickly intravaneously

Epinephrine is a synethetic form of a naturally occuring hormone in our bodies called adrenaline, which increases heart rate, blood pressure and opens the air passages of the lungs. It can be administered through a shot in the muscle (IM), usually in the form of an EpiPen jab, or it can be administered intravaneously (IV) directly into the veins.

Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, told Insider the dispersement method changes how quickly the medicine is absorbed by the body.

"In general, IV meds work much quicker than IM meds since they go straight into the bloodstream, whereas IM is a slower release from the muscle into the bloodstream," she said.

In cases of anaphylaxis, whether a patient is better treated with epinephrine through IV or IM depends on proper dosage.

"IV is not necessarily better, and you need to be sure the correct concentration is administered," Parikh said. "However, it is a great option if someone does not respond to IM, or if there is no other option."

If a patient isn't responding to an EpiPen shot, or they are critically ill, Parikh recommends medical professionals use an IV as the next step, as long as it's administered with the correct dose. (EpiPens contain a specific dose, while, in an IV, the epinephrine needs to be dosed and diluted.)

Life-threatening peanut allergies are increasingly common, but a new treatment could help

Peanut allergies are one of the most common forms of food allergy in the US, and rates of peanut allergies have been on the rise among children in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Symptoms of allergic reaction to peanuts can be mild, such as hives, itchiness, and runny nose, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, peanut allergies are the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly. Anaphylaxis can cause a major drop in blood pressure and swelling in the throat that prevents a person from breathing. This can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage, and death.

But there might soon be hope, at least for children with peanut allergies: last year, the FDA approved the first-ever peanut allergy medication to help reduce the risk of severe reactions for kids aged four to 17. While people using the medication will still have to avoid peanuts, it could prevent severe responses to trace amounts of peanuts encountered accidentally, Insider previously reported.

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