A teenage girl who suffered fevers, blisters on her mouth and excruciating pain while chewing and swallowing stumped doctors for months until it was finally revealed that her braces were behind her painful symptoms.
Kennedy Odom, 16, suffered from the debilitating symptoms for months which kept her from school and caused her to lose 30 pounds as doctors scrambled to find what was causing the outbreak.
What doctors thought could be anything from leukemia to strep throat turned out to be systemic nickel allergy syndrome, a severe allergy to the metal nickel that is commonly found in jewelry, clothes fasteners and in Kennedy’s case – braces.
Now the teen from Tennessee has discovered she is allergic to other forms of metal including cobalt and stainless steel which makes simple tasks such as drinking from a soda can daunting.
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Kennedy Odom, 16, fell ill from an allergy to the nickel in her braces which took doctors months to diagnose
Photos of Kennedy’s mouth show the white puss-filled legions that formed due to her braces
Video Courtesy WMC
Symptoms of a nickel allergy include a rash or bumps on the skin, itching, redness, dry patches and blisters in severe cases.
Fifteen to 20 percent of the population suffer from an allergy to nickel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A year after Kennedy’s initial health scare, she experienced similar allergic reactions after receiving a vaccination at school and sipping from a metal soda can.
It was later discovered that she had allergies to nickel, stainless steel, and cobalt.
Nickel allergies are common, Kennedy’s reaction was so severe that it almost cost her her life.
Kennedy and her mother Cicely both got braces in February 2015.
Nine months later Kennedy first started to develop symptoms when a headache quickly turned to a fever.
‘It felt like someone was sitting on my head – like a lot of pressure,’ Kennedy said on the Animal Planet show Monsters Inside Me.
Her mother, Cicely gave her over-the-counter medicine but the headache got worse.
As her mother took her temperature that night, Cicely noticed her daughter’s lips were swollen and red but wasn’t too concerned.
The following morning Kennedy went to a local clinic where the doctors performed a physical examination and she described started to feel pain in her throat.
‘It felt like it was burning and I couldn’t swallow anything,’ Kennedy said.
She was diagnosed with strep throat, the common bacterial infection that causes inflammation and scratchiness in the throat.
Doctors prescribed her with antibiotics and Kennedy was sent home.
However later that week Kennedy’s condition took an alarming turn when she woke up and began vomiting.
That’s when Kennedy’s mother noticed sores filling her daughter’s mouth.
‘The bumps were all over the inside and the outside of her mouth and puss-filled so they were white, red and blotchy,’ said Cicely.
After being rushed to the emergency room, an initial round of tests could not find anything more than strep throat.
Doctors concluded it was a virus contributing to strep throat and sent Kennedy and her mother home frustrated and afraid, according to Cicely.
She suffered from headaches, fevers and blisters inside of her mouth until the teen from Tennessee finally got her braces removed causing the symptoms to immediately go away
WHAT IS A NICKEL ALLERGY?
Nickel allergy is a common cause of allergy causing an itchy rash that appears where your skin touches a usually harmless substance.
It is often associated with earrings and other jewelry. But nickel can be found in many everyday items, such as coins, zippers, cellphones and eyeglass frames.
It may take repeated or prolonged exposure to items containing nickel to develop an allergy.
Treatments can reduce the symptoms of nickel allergy but once you develop a nickel allergy you’ll always be sensitive to the metal and need to avoid contact.
Symptoms include a rash or bumps on the skin, itching, redness or changes in skin color, dry patches of skin that may resemble a burn and in severe cases blisters and draining fluid.
About 15 to 20 percent of the population has a nickel allergy.
For the next several weeks her symptoms persisted.
‘I felt really week, I didn’t want to get out of bed and didn’t have an appetite for anything,’ Kennedy said.
They continued to see multiple doctors when one physician pushed on her side during an examination.
Kennedy jumped in pain and and ultrasound revealed that her spleen was enlarge.
The spleen in vital for fighting off infections which meant Kennedy’s immune system was compromised because it was enlarged.
Enlarged spleens are also consistent with allergic reactions
However doctors suspected leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bones, due to her susceptibility to infection.
‘I wanted them to be wrong but she wasn’t getting better,’ said Cicely.
A family member noticed that everything was physically normal except Kennedy’s mouth.
Her lips were red, swollen and enlarged so they asked the doctors if the issue could be coming from her mouth.
Over the next three days doctors tested potential allergens on Kennedy’s skin which revealed she had a nickel allergy.
Kennedy recalled that each time she got her braces tightened she would develop bumps. As the tissue in her mouth got more inflamed the allergy got more widespread.
Her braces were immediately removed and within days her symptoms went away.
She no longer was feeling lethargic and her mother said she saw an immediate change.
Periodontist Dr Mitchel Godat treated Kennedy and said: ‘Inside Kennedy these allergens caused her immune system to flare up. Eventually she had step throat and her immune system was going into overdrive trying to fight the infection.’
‘Her body was destroying itself trying to get rid of this allergen,’ he added.