We admit to being helicopter parents of a first grader who is allergic to peanuts. Peanuts are everywhere and this is the first time he’s taking his lunch. What can we do to make people, as well as his classmates, aware of the seriousness of his allergy? The school health clinic has his EpiPens and we hope he’s prepared for a life threatening emergency, to the best of his seven-year-old ability.
–D.S., Providence, RI
It sounds as though you’ve prepared the school and your son for an emergency. Hopefully, most schools understand the seriousness of the problem. According to the advocacy group FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), one out of every thirteen school age child have a food allergy. Lunchrooms should be monitored, cafeteria food nut free, and epinephrine auto-injectors known as EpiPens (containing adrenaline for emergency treatment for anaphylaxis–a traumatic reaction that can cause death within minutes) are on hand. You’re right in fearing that your son may be on the school bus, in the playground, at another child’s house, or at a birthday party when he’s given peanuts in some form. Whether or not you send him with an EpiPen sealed in a ziplock bag tucked into his backpack to school or to play, only you can train him to know what to do. Tell the grownup in charge about the seriousness of the allergy, the symptoms and where to find the EpiPen. Having unexpired EpiPens in school and at home are a must, but I don’t need to tell you that.
Aside from what you already know, lobby your congressmen to support national legislation in the form of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which would require schools to stock prescribed epinephrine and allow authorized staff to administer it. The bill was passed in the House last July and will be voted on in the Senate this fall.
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