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All You Wanted to Know About Allergies to Broad Beans

Last week, a 32-year-old Israeli man died on a plane flight after eating the beans.

| 07.05.17 | 12:39
broad beans / Shutterstock
A 32-year-old Israeli on plane on his way to a honeymoon died in front of his wife from an allregy attack after eating broad beans. This is even more tragic because dying from an allergy attack is something preventable.
 
The newlywed couple flew on a honeymoon from Madrid to Florida, two months after their marriage. The new husband ate the airline meal and soon lost consciousness. A doctor on the flight tried treating him but it was to no avail and the man died.
 
After the disaster, Prof. Aaron Kassel, chairman of the Association of Allergy Doctors in Israel, called on the authorities to immediately instruct the airlines to add the life-saving ‘EpiPen’ epinephrine intramuscular injections to first aid kits on airplanes, a common practice in Israeli restaurants and public places. This medication is for emergency treatment of very serious allergic reactions to insect stings/bites, foods, drugs, or other substances. It quickly improves breathing, stimulates the heart, raises low blood pressure, reverses hives, and shrinks face, lips, and throat swelling.

Serious allergy reactions do happen on plane flights though there were no previous deaths from this allergy. “We shouldn't let passengers
become endangered just because airplanes don't carry the injections,” says Prof. Kassel.
 
In this morning's Yated Ne'eman newspaper, is an article about the allergy caused by a genetic defect (mutation) where a person lacks the enzyme G6PD, glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase or it doesn't function properly. This enzyme is involved in many vital body processes, and it’s also responsible for the integrity of the red blood cells. An enzyme deficiency causes harm to the cells and the person suffers from hemolytic anemia.
 
The mutation is hereditary, and it is enough for one carrier parent to give the mutation to the child. Most people with this enzyme deficiency are men. It is important to understand that even in people who suffer from enzyme dysfunction normally have a sufficient amount of the enzyme in their blood cells for routine living. The problem occurs when a person carrying the genetic defect is exposed to substances like broad beans or to situations that require more of the enzyme.
 
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from an allergy to broad beans. This is the most common allergy in people of certain ethnic backgrounds. It's common among Middle Easterners: Greeks, Italians, Spaniards and Armenians. Among Jews, the allergy is common mainly among immigrants from Morocco, Kurdistan and northern Iraq. The genetic defect is common, though to a lesser extent, among Yemenite, Iranian, and Georgian Jews.
 
It's amazing to discover that people with this enzyme deficiency have a life-saving benefit; they are better protected against malaria! Researchers speculate that a side effect of the enzyme deficiency G6PD is higher resistance to malaria, and statistics support this.
 
Being allergic to broad beans should not interfere with daily life. In most cases, the enzyme deficiency isn't noticed and doesn't cause problems. Most people who carry the genetic defect aren't even aware of it - unless they specifically test to identify the mutation.
 
For people with the enzyme deficiency, it is enough to avoid eating broad beans and avoid exposure to prohibited substances. Professor Kassel explains that, generally speaking, the intolerance to broad beans does not cause immediate and serious damage. The lack of enzyme causes destruction of red blood cells of a person who eats broad beans, but it is a long term effect which can be fatal, but not so rapidly.
 
Its allergy symptoms are fever, fatigue, and rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, paleness and jaundice. In many cases, babies born with newborn jaundice are tested for this allergy since that jaundice may come from an enzyme deficiency.
 
People with this allergy are also allergic to drugs containing sulfa like certain antibiotics. Severe infections which cause damage to red blood cells may also be dangerous to them.