Allergies addressed

Students share near-death events

Allergies addressed

Nut and peanut allergies are one of the eight most common foods that cause allergic reactions in the United States, and though it  may seem minor it can be deadly.

Approximately 3 million people in the United States have a peanut/nut allergy. This deadly disease affects about 1 in 13 of children, about two per classroom, according to the Food Allergy Research and Education Program at food

Freshmen Hunter Hsu is one of these three million.

“I first discovered my allergy when my parents and I went to a restaurant and I reacted negatively to a dish I ordered. I went to the doctor and was tested. Turns out I have a peanut allergy,” Hsu said.

Luckily, Hsu did not have an anaphylactic attack this time. But, when he did have one it was very frightening.

      “It was scary and traumatic because I could have died. My throat was closing up, and I went to the hospital and  was given an epipen and hooked up to this breathing machine that helped me feel better,” Hunter said.

An epipen is a prescribed medication that injects epinephrine, that relaxes your muscles and makes it less challenging to breathe.

Hunter has had multiple allergic reactions and one resulted in the calling of 911 by his parents.

“We have had to go the emergency room when peanuts showed up in his food. It’s a life-threatening condition, and every time he ingests peanuts, I wonder if this is something that can kill him,” Hunter’s dad Benedict Hsu said.

Hunter’s mom Hanh Hsu said that the most stressful part of his allergy is when they were not informed by doctors that vomiting and diarrhea were signs of anaphylaxis.

“The level of education was subpar,” Hanh Hsu said.

At school, Mrs. Van Hoomissen, the school nurse, said that she and the staff members try  to create  plans so that if the 68 kids on campus who have deathly allergies have an allergic reaction they could help that student.

“I make an effort, [to help students] so I send out a care plan to the teachers on the schedule [of students with allergies],” Van Hoomissen said.

Van Hoomissen also said that there’s  a place in AERIES where she could mark a red flag so when a student’s name comes up, it has a symbol that teachers could click on and see what their medical condition is.

But, Hunter’s parents disagree on how much the school staff does to prevent potential allergic reactions.

“In middle school, they had a peanut-free table, but they didn’t implement it until he had a serious incident in kindergarten. I feel like in high school it is not addressed enough as a serious thing,” Benedict Hsu said.

Van Hoomissen says that she can’t do much to prevent allergic reactions. But, students usually know of their allergies beforehand and should know what to avoid.

Benedict Hsu says that if Hunter is faced with a life-threatening situation, we wouldn’t know if he would be able to manage.

“We haven’t been in that situation yet, so it’s hard to tell ahead of time what he would do in a stressful situation like that,” Benedict Hsu said, when asked if Hunter would know what to do if an allergy reaction occurred.

Even if kids lacked the capability to inject their own epipens, most school nurses are trained and know how to deal with a situation like this.

“I had to give an epipen to a female student just a couple of weeks ago. She had a known allergy but didn’t have an epipen yet so I used the one in the office,” Van Hoomissen said.

Allergic reactions can be as mild as a couple of hives or rashes on the skin to more severe cases which can include vomiting and the swelling of the throat.

The symptoms can be presented in different ways each time a reaction occurs, so there is never a way to know for sure what will happen to the student.

Sophomore Ruben De La Torre, who has an allergy to nuts, also carries an epipen with him at school because he has also experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction.

“When I was little, my aunt gave my sister and I food that had nuts in it. Our throats swelled up and we had to go to the hospital,” De La Torre said.

De La Torre said that ever since then, he has been very careful about what he eats, just so it doesn’t happen again. If he’s ever unsure of something, he usually looks at the ingredients on the wrapper.

“Whenever I go to restaurants, if I don’t know if a dish has nuts in it or not, I ask the server of the ingredients,” De La Torre said.

De La Torre has never had to use his epipen before, and he trusts that in a dangerous situation, someone in the office can help him.

In Van Hoomissen’s  opinion, friends who are close to students with allergies should know if he/she has an allergy that could potentially kill them. But, whether the student tells their friend or not is their opinion.

Hsu said that whenever he goes to his friend’s houses, they usually know about his allergy and they just give him food that doesn’t have any peanuts in it.

“Whenever Hunter goes somewhere with his friends, he is pretty good about taking his epipen with him, but I always fear that his allergy is something that could potentially get out of control,” Benedict Hsu said.

Like Van Hoomissen said, there is no way to prevent an allergic reaction to foods, except for to look at labels and ask about ingredients before you eat it.

“I have learned to accept it over the years that I have my peanut allergy, and I’ve learned to  just deal with it. Maybe in the future, they’ll have some kind of invention to help with my allergy,” Hsu said.