Anaphylaxis, a form of IgE mediated hypersensitivity, arises when mast cells and possibly basophils are provoked to secrete mediators with potent vasoactive and smooth muscle contractile activities that evoke a systemic response. We report a case of IgE mediated anaphylaxis to peppermint (Mentha piperita) in a male shortly after sucking on a candy.
A 69 year old male developed sudden onset of lip and tongue swelling, throat tightness and shortness of breath within five minutes of sucking on a peppermint candy. He denied lightheadedness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, or urticaria. He took 25 mg of diphenhydramine, but his symptoms progressed to onset of cough, wheeze and difficulty with talking and swallowing. He was rushed to the nearest emergency department, where he was treated with intramuscular epinephrine, antihistamines and steroids. On history, he reported recent onset of mouth itchiness and mild tongue and lip swelling after using Colgate peppermint toothpaste. He denied previous history of asthma, allergic rhinitis, food or drug allergies. His past medical history was remarkable for hypercholesterolemia, gastroesophageal reflux and gout. He was on simvastatin, omeprazole, aspirin, and was carrying a self-injectable epinephrine device. He moved to current residence three years ago and cultivated mint plants in his backyard. He admitted to develop nasal congestion, cough and wheeze when gardening. Physical examination was unremarkable apart from slightly swollen pale inferior turbinates. Skin prick test (SPT) was strongly positive to a slurry of peppermint candy and fresh peppermint leaf, with appropriate controls. Same tests performed on five healthy volunteers yielded negative results. Skin testing to common inhalants including molds and main allergenic foods was positive to dust mites. Strict avoidance of mint containing items was advised. Upon reassessment, he had removed mint plants from his garden which led to resolution of symptoms when gardening.
IgE mediated anaphylaxis to peppermint is rare. This case demonstrates a systemic reaction to a commonly consumed item, incapable of triggering anaphylaxis in the far majority of the population, yet causing a severe episode for our patient.