9th October 2023

Allergic reactions

Initial Report

A crew member experienced an allergic reaction during a recent incident while working in the catering department. They reported feeling tingling in their gums and a tightening sensation in their throat after having lunch. They promptly took antihistamines, and the Head of Department (HOD) was notified.

Although the symptoms did not worsen, the decision was made to seek further advice as a precautionary measure. Medaire was contacted, and they recommended taking the crew member to the local hospital for a thorough check-up. Another crew member accompanied them, and an EpiPen was administered as a precautionary measure. The crew member received two additional
injections at the clinic and was observed for two hours before being discharged.

The investigation revealed that the crew member had unknowingly consumed citrus fruit juice during their prepared lunch, which they were allergic to. The tingling gums, throat tightness, and difficulty breathing matched the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

CHIRP Comment

Although the company ensured that chefs were aware of the allergic effects of some foods, neither they nor the master knew that someone on board was allergic to citrus. Persons who know that they are allergic or intolerant to certain items are encouraged to declare this when they sign on. While such information is ‘medical in confidence’, it needs to be recorded somewhere so that effective first aid can be given should they be incapacitated and unable to communicate this.

To ensure your safety, your manning agents must be aware of your allergies, and your medical chest should carry sufficient medication in case of a reaction. Additionally, ensure you know your medical response contact details, especially when you are not in or near a port.

CHIRP would like to commend the officers and crew of the motor yacht for their excellent response in seeking advice and promptly getting the crew member to the local clinic for further assessment. The company’s commitment to a strong safety culture, prioritising the crew’s well-being, is highly commendable.

Key Issues relating to this report

Alerting – Ensure you alert your managers and the crew you work with about your allergies. It can save your life!

Communication – Does your company have a policy on allergy reporting? Society has more allergic reactions than ever, so we must be more mindful. Does your SMS health and safety section have a section on allergies and their response?

Teamwork – The response by the crew was excellent in ensuring the crew member’s safety- How often do you practice medivac drills using a similar scenario?

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