The dangers of a rare mint allergy: How one Lowestoft student brushed his teeth - and ended up in A&E

Ben Cronin in hospital after an allergic reaction.

Ben Cronin in hospital after an allergic reaction. - Credit: Archant

As he started to brush his teeth, little did Ben Cronin know it would lead to him being rushed to A&E.

Standing in his bathroom, the 23-year old psychology student from Lowestoft began feeling unwell as his throat swelled, his body itched, and he started sweating.

His condition worsened and an ambulance took him to hospital, after receiving initial treatment by paramedics.

At hospital it emerged Mr Cronin has an extremely rare allergy to mint, and his allergic reaction had been caused by his parents' toothpaste leaking on to part of his toothbrush.

Mr Cronin usually uses fruit-flavoured toothpaste.

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Since the incident, last April, Mr Cronin has experienced several further reactions after being exposed to mint in a variety of ways.

On one occasion, during a trip to Stockholm, Sweden, he ate a chocolate served with a cup of tea in a café – not knowing the snack contained mint – which sparked an anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction) and meant he had to go to the local hospital.

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Last month he was treated at the JPH for an allergic reaction to a spider-bite, and mistakenly given piriton, an anti-histamine which contains a minty substance.

This prompted another reaction, resulting in a second trip to the hospital just six hours after being discharged.

'I was taken to the hospital by the same ambulance crew that picked me up when I was bitten by a spider,' Mr Cronin said. 'I was so embarrassed.

'To be fair to the hospital it has since made sure I'm not given any medication which contains mint.'

Last month he was eating pick'n' mix while walking between Cromer and Sheringham, only to develop another reaction as one of the sweets set off his allergy.

On every occasion Mr Cronin has needed urgent medical help to counteract the anaphylactic shock.

An allergic reaction to an allergen occurs when the immune system responds abnormally upon exposure to that substance which is normally not harmful.

The allergen may enter the body by being inhaled, eaten or touched by a person who has become sensitised to that allergen previously.

Mr Cronin's allergy has had a profound impact on his lifestyle, as any potential reaction could be very dangerous.

He believes manufacturers should be clearer in informing what sort of foods are contained within their products.

'It's always specified that a product may contain nuts, but sometimes it doesn't mention mint, and that's quite a problem,' he said.

'I want people to realise that you have to treat all allergies as seriously.

'Some manufacturers put 'contains herbs and spices' on the packaging, but I need to know which herbs are used. Sometimes I have to get my friends to test the food first.

'I worry that I will have a reaction that is so severe that I can't recover from it.'

Dr Shuaib Nasser, a doctor at Addenbrooke's Hospital and member of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, said: 'This is an extremely rare allergy.

'The most common types of food allergies are nuts, fruits, wheat, eggs, milk, and fish/shellfish. Allergies as rare as mint would include honey, peppers, and okra.'

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