An allergic reaction is not something that is contagious, however, an unlikely situation occurred on Wednesday, when EMS teams were called to help treat a young woman who developed a severe allergic reaction to a tanning cream that she had been using.

Shai Levi (17) who hails from Kibbutz Matzuva in the western Galilee, went to a tanning spa in Nahariya and applied some tanning lotion that was intended to speed up the tanning process.  

Levi and Elbaz pose together after being treated for their allergic reaction to the tanning cream
Levi and Elbaz pose together after being treated for their allergic reaction to the tanning cream

“This is not the first time that I have used this cream, but it is the first time I had an allergic reaction to it,” Levi explained to Yisrael Hayom reporters. Her symptoms developed rather quickly. “I applied the lotion and as I was stepping into the tanning bed I suddenly felt dizzy and lightheaded,” said Levi. Levi proceeded to faint in just before she stepped into the tanning bed. “I don’t recall exactly what happened but I know that people sat me up on a chair. They thought that I had dehydrated due to exposure to the machine, but I hadn’t even gotten into it yet. When I regained consciousness, I had trouble breathing and I had splotches all over my body. I became very distressed and began to cry as I was given oxygen to help ease my breathing.”

United Hatzalah EMT Meir Elbaz was the first responder at the scene and began to treat Levi. During the process, Levi’s situation deteriorated and the EMS responders began to consider performing full CPR on her.

“When I arrived at the tanning salon, I saw a 17-year-old girl (Levi) being propped up on a chair. She was having difficulty breathing and had signs of an allergic reaction on her skin. I took a full set of vital signs and began to take an oral history from those present. After asking if she had eaten anything strange, or was exposed to anything out of the ordinary, I was told that she had, just a few minutes previously, applied the tanning cream before stepping into the tanning bed. Someone mentioned that this wasn’t the first time she had used the cream, and I explained that occasionally, allergies can erupt even after the first few times of using a new product.”   

After Levi had been treated on scene, prepped, and transported by ambulance to the hospital, Elbaz came back inside to the tanning salon to gather up his equipment. While collecting his medical supplies he began to suffer an allergic reaction and itchy spots formed on his hand. “I looked at my hand and I saw that the same marks that Shai had on her hand now appeared on mine.”

“I called the ambulance team that transported Levi to the hospital to see if they had suffered a reaction as well. They said that they hadn’t. I headed over to the emergency room and received anti-allergy medication. I have never had an allergic reaction to anything before in my life and as I was treating an allergy patient I was shocked to find that I had a reaction myself. I used protective gloves and followed protocol the whole way through. However, as I helped to put her on a wheelchair for transport it must have been then that my skin came into contact with hers in a place that she had put on the lotion.  

Elbaz took the cream to the hospital with him in order to have the team there check it out but the cream had not yet expired and had a seal of approval from the Ministry of Health’s Import Division.

Elbaz concluded by saying that in spite of his reaction his determination to help people has not dwindled. “I will still do my best to save lives and help people wherever I can. This incident won’t phase me in that regard. I will continue to take all proper procedures to protect myself and follow all of the protocols set forth by the organization and the Ministry of Health in doing so.

Levi said following the incident, “Meir came to the hospital to visit me, and to get himself checked out as well. At first, I felt somewhat guilty for having caused him to be exposed to this. But I understand that his reaction was far less than mine. I will no longer be using these types of products. I know now that they are not good for me.”