Queen’s student’s allergic reaction death raises concerns

Sep 22, 2015 | News

Queen's student Andrea Mariano, 18, died on Sept. 18 after a severe allergic reaction.

Queen’s student Andrea Mariano, 18, died on Sept. 18 after a severe allergic reaction.

By Christine Tippett

Andrea Mariano, 18, had just started her first year at Queen’s University when she died of a severe allergic reaction.

The family of Mariano told Global News she went into anaphylactic shock after drinking a smoothie on campus.

“All her life she has been very particular about letting whoever it is that is preparing her food know,” Mariano’s cousin Hedellaine Valentin told Global News. “To say, ‘I have an allergy to peanuts, I am deathly allergic to peanuts and I have an allergy to dairy products.’ She knows that. She tells them.”

The day of the incident Mariano was not carrying one of her two EpiPens, which was something she never did, according to her family.

Mariano, who was from Thornhill Ont., was rushed to Kingston General Hospital and died a few days later on Sept. 18.

“The doctors have said, even if she had both EpiPens with her, it was that severe, whatever it was that she had ingested… this was inevitable,” Valentin told Global News.

She was only two days into her university career in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Principal of Queen’s University, Daniel Woolf, issued a statement on her death:

In a statement, Queen’s University explained the school’s policies for students living with allergies.

“The university does offer a number of services and support designed to guide students who live with or experience allergies and other health challenges. Those services include signage in our dining halls, as well as personal meetings with our campus executive chef in order to provide students with guidance when it comes to eating on campus.”

Joint responsibility to be informed

The story is a little different at Humber College in Toronto. Taking a walk around the Food Emporium at North Campus, there are no signs readily apparent in regard to food allergies. The information is not easily accessible online, either.

Beatrice Povolo, the Director of Marketing & Communications at Food Allergy Canada said it’s a joint responsibility between individuals and the community to help manage allergies and to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.

Povolo said it’s very important for post-secondary schools to provide resources and information about where students can ask questions and who they can speak to about their allergies.

“The key is having access to information about what ingredients are used and how the food is prepared, as well as having people on site who are knowledgeable about food allergies that individuals can speak to. On-campus and off-campus, that is something we would like to see in all food service establishments,” Povolo said.

Povolo said it’s a challenging situation when students move away for the first time, and the situation can be even more complicated when someone has food allergies.

“We always want to make sure that anyone with a severe allergy is vigilant and safe…But also understanding that mistakes and accidents can happen, and trying to be prepared in all situations,” she said.

Food Allergy Canada, which provides information on managing food allergies, says there are approximately 2.5 million Canadians with food allergies.