The recent death of a Virginia girl has raised new questions about how schools and parents should handle students with severe allergies.
Food allergies affect an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 5 and about 3 to 4 percent of adults. Seven-year old Amarria Johnson of Chesterfield County, Va., died last week apparently after being exposed to peanuts at her school.
Doctors said the best protection is preparation.
“The first thing you need is a diagnosis,” said Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md. “You need a correct diagnosis to tell all the people who are going to be around your child that this is a life-threatening allergy.”
Before a food allergy attack, it’s important to have a treatment plan checklist.
“Things can happen in seconds,” Dr. Jackie said. “When the child appears to be having a reaction, you don’t wait to see what will happen this time. That time could be your last time. Use that EpiPen immediately.”
Next, use only Epinephrine in an emergency.
“People are very confused about this and want to use over-the-counter Benadryl, but that’s not safe. You can die,” Dr. Jackie emphasized.
She also said don’t forget food allergy drill training. Train people to use an EpiPen before an allergy attack.
“You should walk the people at your child’s school through the steps. Also train family members, caregivers and friends,” Dr. Jackie said.
If the allergy sufferer is an adult, make sure coworkers are trained.
Finally, know the rules and rights for carrying an EpiPen. They aren’t easily accessible, so if you need one, the only way to get one is through a doctor, and make sure you carry it with you 24-7! At school, make sure they have it in the nurse’s office along with the proper paperwork authorizing the nurse to medicate your child. If you go out to dinner or make a quick run to the gas station, take that EpiPen with you. And yes, you can take it on the plane.
“As long as the EpiPen is in your name with the prescription written on it and it’s in the box, you can take it on board,” Dr. Jackie said. “Remember, it doesn’t do you any good if you have an EpiPen and you need it and it’s at home in your medicine cabinet.”