In The News: Epipen or no?

As a part of my blog, I like to read up on current allergy events, because I believe that an important part of learning about allergies is being up to date on the events that occur. I came across this story in the news recently, and I wanted to wirte a post about it, in hopes that something like this never happens again.

About a week ago, a high school student at District 214 high school named Lia Sommers suffered an allergic reaction after eating a turkey sandwich with pesto provided to her by the school.

The Food and Nutrition Services Department had subbed out the pine nuts in the pesto, which Sommers was not allergic to, with peanuts, without alerting the students or staff of the school. According to reports, Sommers felt her throat begin to close right after taking the first bite of her sandwich.

With the help of a friend, Sommers managed to make it to the nurse’s office, where she requested to be injected with an Epipen.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

The nurse did not give her an EpiPen. She said that instead, Sommers should take Benadryl antihistamine. Sommers, who from experience, knew that Benadryl simply masks symptoms of a reaction while it proceeds to get worse, refused. At this point, Sommers had been going through anaphylaxis for a couple minutes and the nurse still hadn’t even called  911.

When the nurse checked Sommers’s official allergy action plan and found that it said to use EpiPen first, in her allergist’s own writing, even that wasn’t enough. Instead, the nurse proceeded to call the Lia’s mother and ask what she should do even though the child was having an allergic reaction right next to her.

According to an interview with the mother after the event, the first two questions she asked the nurse were: “Did [she] administer EpiPen?” and “Did [she] call 911?” She said she was appalled to hear that the answer to both of those questions was no. Luckily, 911 was later called, and Sommers managed to pull through, but this is yet another example of how education about food allergies is super important.

If 911 got there even a couple minutes later, would Sommers have survived? It is impossible to know, but her chances would be greatly reduced due to the actions of that nurse. While she was simply trying to help to the best of her ability, this just shows that not a lot of people know the proper allergy procedure. I hope we can change that.

Until next time


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