Mother hospitalised for three days after allergic reaction to hair dye almost killed her

29-year-old struggled to breathe as her heart rate jumped to dangerous levels
Scalp was left oozing yellow pus and smelt of burning flesh
Victim now wants chemical banned from all UK hair dyes

Last updated at 1:14 PM on 4th October 2011

Burning: Mariade Kelly’s skin weeps and burns following an allergic reaction to hair dye

A mum was left terrified and fighting for her life after suffering an allergic reaction to a bottle of hair dye.

Mariade Kelly, 29, ended up in a hospital high-dependency unit after using a bottle of £5.99 Garnier Nutrisse in Black.

Just hours after applying it to her hair, Miss Kelly’s scalp began to weep with pus and her skin started to itch uncontrollably.

But this was just the beginning of her problems as over a 48-hour period her symptoms deteriorated to a life-threatening degree.

Her throat closed up, she struggled to breathe and her heart rate jumped to a dangerous 180 beats per minute.

Miss Kelly, who started going grey in her early 20s, decided to dye her hair ahead of a trip from her home of Grangemouth, Scotland, to see her fiance Paul’s family in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.

The night before she was due to leave, she applied a bottle of Garnier Nutrisse in Black to her hair which she had purchased from her local Superdrug.

She said: ‘I started going grey when I was quite young so I had used other dyes in the past for years and I thought I would be fine.

‘Before I went to bed, I felt some slight itching and my head was a bit uncomfortable. But then it just started getting worse and worse.

‘There was yellow pus oozing from my scalp and it had the most horrific smell of burning flesh.

‘I knew straightaway that was from the dye but at that point I didn’t panic, I just took some anti-histamines and put some Sudocrem on my hairline, where it was starting to blister, before I went to sleep.’

However, the next morning, Miss Kelly faced the long drive to Scunthorpe with unpleasant pus running down her face.

Too ashamed to show her appearance in public, she hid in the car while her fiance, Paul Abdi, 42, a managing director, and children Brooke, 12, and Mya, six, visited service stations en route.

However, by the time the party reached Scunthorpe, it was clear that Miss Kelly, a council worker, required urgent medical attention.

She said: ‘During the journey, I was getting gradually worse all the time.

‘Both my eyes swelled up and the skin at the side of my earlobes was really swollen and itchy.

‘The worst part was the awful pus that was still oozing from my head all the time.

‘We went to A&E and I was seen pretty quickly, but at that point, because the reaction was still relatively slight, I was sent home with some anti-histamines and told to keep an eye on it.’

That night, Miss Kelly awoke in a panic to find her whole face was swollen and her cheeks had puffed out to double their size.

She returned to A&E only to be told to keep taking her medication, but just three hours later she went back to the hospital with a racing heartbeart and shortness of breath and was immediately admitted.

She said: ‘Paul dropped me off at the front door and went to park the car.

‘The first nurse who set eyes on me exclaimed “Oh my God, this woman is having a terrible reaction”, and by the time Paul came in I was strapped to a heart monitor on a trolley.

‘My heart rate was at 180 bpm – around the same rate as a heart attack – and I couldn’t breathe.

‘My eyelids had swelled completely shut and I couldn’t see.

‘I was really panicking by this point and even the nurses seemed shocked.

‘I was admitted to the high dependency unit and pumped full of anti-histamines and steroid injections.

‘It was awful as in the bed next to me there was someone receiving the last rites – I was so scared.

‘By this point my skin was actually starting to bruise because it was so swollen.’

Miss Kelly spent a further three days in hospital during the time of the incident in January this year.

One of the doctors asked her if she had ever heard of the chemical PPD.

An ingredient in many UK hair dyes, para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is a common allergen banned in many European countries.

People can become allergic to it at any time, even if they have been exposed to it before without problems.

For this reason, it was voted Allergen Of The Year in 2006 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Miss Kelly said: ‘When he told me it was banned in so many countries I was shocked.

‘He told me to check with my GP once I got home to see if that’s what was responsible for my reaction and it turned out it was.

‘Afterwards I found out it’s contained in all sorts of things, from textiles to cosmetics.

‘I feel very strongly that PPD should be banned in the UK.

‘I didn’t do a patch test but I had used dyes with PPD in them for years without any problems and I know I am not the only person who doesn’t do the test every time they dye their hair.

‘It’s horrifying to think it could be in my clothes or in a tube of mascara and I would be none the wiser.

‘Now that I have had the reaction once, I will always be allergic to PPD and another reaction could kill me.

‘I now have to dye my hair with a semi-permanent dye I order from a health food shop’.

‘More people need to know the risks of PPD so they don’t have to go through what I went through.’

A spokesman for Garnier said: ‘We are totally committed to ensuring that our products are safe and that our customers can use them with absolute confidence.
‘We were very sorry to hear of Ms Kelly’s experience in January.

‘Ms Kelly has not contacted Garnier and we would encourage her to do so, so that we can offer specialist medical support.’

‘A helpline number is provided on all our products and we always offer our support when consumers contact us.

‘Allergies to hair colourants are extremely rare but can occur for a very small number of people.

‘Ms Kelly’s experience shows how important it is to carry out a skin allergy test at least 48 hours before using the colourant each and every time, following the instructions exactly, which are clearly displayed on Garnier Nutrisse hair colour packaging.’

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