Moving Beyond “Red Man Syndrome”

A recent commentary explains why the term for a vancomycin infusion reaction, “Red Man Syndrome,” is problematic: S Alvarez-Arango et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 1283-1286. Vancomycin Infusion Reaction — Moving beyond “Red Man Syndrome

Key points:

  • “Red Man” syndrome “calls up historical narratives that endorse and reinforce discrimination against Native American and Indigenous peoples”
  • Vancomycin infusion reactions are more readily documented in white males than in females and black patients. The combination of rash, itching, flushing and hives may be less apparent in some groups and/or mistaken as a true allergy.
  • “We recommend using the term “infusion reaction” for all non-immune-mediated drug reactions”

My take: I agree with the authors that the term “red man syndrome” should be dropped. It is both an insensitive term and also hinders appropriate diagnosis of vancomycin infusion reactions.

Gibbs Gardens, April 3, 2021

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