Jessie Sullivan of London was unprepared for this outcome: the day after coloring her hair, she awoke with not only a new color, but also a grossly bloated face. Hospital care was the only option.
“The itching came first then the swelling and my tongue felt funny. I woke up the next day and couldn’t open my eyes,” she said.
This is how Jessie Sullivan of Beckenham, near London, describes the trauma she went through in March 2022 after attempting to colour her hair. For three days, she couldn’t see anything. Despite using the same product as before, the outcome was unexpected – and potentially life-threatening.
When the 43-year-old school chef went to her family doctor with her problems, she experienced anaphylactic shock, the most severe allergic reaction (see box). According to Dailymail.co.uk, she was given an adrenaline shot at the scene and then rushed to the hospital, where she was given IVs of steroids, antibiotics, and painkillers. While this rescued her from the worst, the side effects – a rash and facial edema – lasted for the time being. She had gotten a sick note.
The strain was seen a few days following the hospitalization.
“A couple of days later I sold a high chair to a woman and she came to the door [to collect it],” she told British news agency Kennedy News & Media.
She was so used to her puffy eyelids that she opened the door without hesitation, startling the woman’s two children.
“I said, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry’ and I gave them the high chair for free”.”
Take note of the expiration date and usage directions
However, how did this happen? Sullivan didn’t think a compatibility test was essential because she’d been using the hair color – Schwarzkopf’s “Cosmic Blue” – for years: ”I normally use and I’ve never had a problem with it. I’ve been using it for years which is why I didn’t do a patch test.”
It turned out that she was using a pack that was only good till 2021.
“But it still shouldn’t have done that.”
The manufacturing company regretted Sullivan’s experience: “We urge everyone to read the instructions and do an allergy alert test before using hair colour, even if they have used the brand or specific colour before, as allergies can build up over time.”
The company also offered expert help to determine the cause of Sullivan’s violent reaction.
Rare, but not an isolated case
It’s unclear whether Sullivan accepted the offer. She has, however, pledged to never color her hair again. Instead, she wants to raise awareness about the potential dangers and encourage people to conduct an allergy test before coloring.
Anaphylactic shock occurs when the immune system overreacts to a specific chemical. Short-term alarm symptoms such as itching, burning, and a feeling of heat in the throat appear at first. Suffice it to say that severe swallowing and breathing problems can strike at the same time. Acute circulatory shock occurs as a result. Allergic shock is life-threatening and can swiftly lead to cardiac arrest if left untreated.
Image Credit: Mail