Allergy is a common disease.
In America alone, according to fightthecauseofallergy.org, approximately 60 million suffer from allergy. The most common of which are allergic rhinitis (hay fever), food allergy, and atopic dermatitis.
However, there’s a rare and lethal kind of allergy, anaphylaxis. Statistics show, according to aaaai.org, case fatality rates were between 0.25% and 0.33% among hospitalizations with anaphylaxis as the principal diagnosis. Its common trigger is food. However small the chances of death that comes with it, dying by peanuts just isn’t a graceful way to go.
Lia Sommer, 15, has an anaphylactic allergy, and peanut is number one on her allergen list. It was her first day in high school, a fairly exciting time to meet new friends, learn new stuff, and discover the whole new world in front of her. Despite the overwhelming new experience, she’s always conscious of her disease, so first thing, she made sure it wouldn’t in any way spoil her excitement.
The first place to check was the school’s cafeteria. The lightest exposure to peanuts could mean fatal to Lia. She was told that the lunchroom did not use peanuts. It’s standard school protocols to avoid accidental consumption of children with allergies. They only sold pre-packed PB and J sandwiches. Lia sighs in relief. She was safe.
During that first week, Lia had the turkey sandwich. It was clear of peanuts. So the following week, she ordered the same sandwich with pesto. It was different. With her past episodes, Lia could instantly detect in one bite if an allergen was in her food.
“I took a bite, and I could feel my throat closing up a little bit,” she said. She immediately went to the school clinic hoping she’d have them administer epinephrine on her and prevent the symptoms from treading its full course.
But instead of giving her EpiPen right away, the nurse suggested she take Benedryl and hope the symptoms settle down. But Lia knows better. Antihistamines would only hide her symptoms outside. With her past experiences, anaphylactic reaction continues in her system causing difficulty of breathing later on. She can’t afford to wait for her symptoms inside out to escalate. Not again.
Lia called her mother, Lonnie, so she could talk to the nurse and tell her to give her an Epi-Pen immediately. Lonnie talked to the nurse. It’s not clear though if Lia was given Epi-Pen after the call, but Lonnie made sure Lia would quickly be taken to the hospital by ambulance, and she would meet her there.
To Lonnie’s surprise, Lia came by ambulance alone. None of the school staff accompanied her minor daughter.
“I am horrified and saddened by the complete lack of common sense and compassion that predicated this decision,” Lonnie furiously said.
The school released a statement admitting that the canteen carelessly substituted one of the pesto’s main ingredients which are pine nuts, with peanuts. However, they believed the school nurse’ course of action was appropriate and consistent with district protocols. Nonetheless, they apologized to the Sommer family and shouldered all the hospital bills.
This unfortunate event might have gone from bad to worst so quickly if it wasn’t for Lia’s presence of mind.As early as possible, we should teach our youngsters like Lia what to do when faced with similar emergency situations.
If our lessons were hardwired to our children as Lonnie had with Lia, they would not be quickly susceptible to wrong decisions of elders around them.If Lia agreed to the nurse’ suggestion of Benadryl and didn’t call her mom immediately, she could’ve faced a whole other world of problems.