BY: LUCY CELENTANO
At the age of twelve, I vividly recall being rushed to the hospital where I was given a double dose of Benadryl and monitored until I was in stable condition and my hives subsided. In that moment, I had absolutely no idea what I consumed that sent me into anaphylactic shock. After hours of concern and physical pain, I realized the pistachio shavings used to garnish the meal I ordered were the reason behind my reaction.
Every three minutes, a food prompted allergic reaction sends someone to the emergency room. Roughly 40 percent of these cases are patients in anaphylactic shock an allergic reaction with potentially fatal symptoms like throat closure and inflammation of the tongue and mouth.The only way to stop this reaction is by directly injecting epinephrine into the thigh. Usually more than one injection dosage is needed to terminate the reaction, which is why auto-injectors are now sold in packs of two across the United States. EpiPen is the most common brand of epinephrine auto injectors and they are essential in these emergency situations and should be made more readily accessible by teachers, students and administrative figures in schools immediately. In addition, a broader education regarding warning signs for those who are going into anaphylactic shock and how to handle the situation are necessary.
Upon initial signs of allergic reaction, many individuals are unaware they have a life threatening allergy that requires instant treatment. According to the Center for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), approximately 20-25 percent of epinephrine administrations in schools involve individuals whose allergy was unknown at the time of the reaction. For this reason, all teachers and school employees should be required to carry auto-injectors with them, or have them readily accessible in the classroom. In the commercial restaurant industry, any operation that is selling any sort of food is required to have an auto-injector on site. This same principle should be applied in schools across the nation for the simple reason that many students are unfortunately unaware of their allergies and having the epinephrine on site could save someone’s life.
Considering the life-threatening challenges that allergies may present, classrooms should be made more allergy-friendly. Although many elementary schools have a “peanut free” table in the lunchroom, this is not sufficient protection for those students who suffer from severe allergies considering many individuals are unaware they even have life threatening allergies. In a study conducted by FARE, about one in three children with food allergies report being bullied as a result of their condition and children with food allergies are twice as likely to be bullied in school settings from the age of six to 18.Ostracizing students with allergies is not the solution whatsoever. Sitting alone at the nut-free table from the ages of four to seven did not do anything to help me when my reading buddy opened up a package of peanut butter crackers next to me during class in third grade, which triggered one of my many reactions since my diagnosis.
A broader education must be administeredregarding how to handle these types of situations in the case that a student does come into contact with an allergen. Nut-free lunch tables are beneficial to a certain extent, but for those students who are allergic and do happen to come into contact withallergens outside the classroom setting, there should always be school employees readily available and capable of administering treatment after recognizing initial symptoms.
The problem of anaphylactic allergies does not have a simple solution.Roughly two students in every classroom have allergies. Given the fact that there is currently no cure for life threatening allergies, a greater education on behalf of students and teachers and accessibility of auto-injectors is mandatory in controlling preventable allergic accidents in schools.