On Monday, January 2, the unthinkable happened.
Ammaria Johnson, a seven-year-old first grader at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, died at school after suffering an allergic reaction to a peanut product. The school was instructed to give Ammaria Benadryl in case of an emergency – a second-best backup plan since the school refused to keep the girl’s EpiPen in the nurse’s office, despite her mother’s request.
Instead of calling 911 or at least administering the Benadryl, Ammaria’s parents received a call at around 2:30 p.m. on Monday informing them that their daughter’s tongue was swelling and someone needed to pick her up. Outraged, they demanded that the school call 911, but it was too late. By the time the EMS crew arrived, the girl was in cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at CJW Medical Center.
Ammaria’s situation was tragic, preventable, and unfortunately, not all that uncommon. Fifteen-year-old Jharell Dillard of Lawrenceville, Georgia died this past August after eating a cookie that apparently contained peanuts. Twenty-year-old Tyler Davis, a junior at Kennesaw State University, died a week later after eating in the campus commons. Last month, six-year-old Megann Ayotte Lefort passed away in Montreal under the watch of the daycare staff at her elementary school.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, it is estimated that food allergies cause about 150 to 200 fatalities each year. Of these fatalities, most (about 50-62%) are caused by peanuts. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, while young children are more commonly affected by food allergies, teenagers and young adults like Jharell and Tyler are at the highest risk of a fatal anaphylactic episode. Life-threatening food allergies are on the rise and they are a threat to nearly 8% of children today.
Clearly, contrary to the Hopkins Elementary School’s beliefs, food allergies are something to be taken seriously. Make it your mission to prevent unnecessary tragedies due to food allergies. Know what to do in case of a life-threatening allergic reaction.
5 simple things you can do to save a life: (obtained from the Mayo Clinic)
1. Recognize the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. These could include pale, cool and clammy skin, weak and rapid pulse, trouble breathing, confusion, loss of consciousness, skin reactions such as hives, swollen tongue, nausea or vomiting.
2. Administer medications to treat an allergy attack, such as an epinephrine auto-injector or antihistamines, if the person has them.
3. Call 911 immediately. Do not “wait it out” to see if symptoms improve. Even if symptoms start to resolve, a second reaction, called a biphasic reaction, could occur up to four hours after the initial symptoms and it is important to seek medical attention.
4. Check the person’s pulse and breathing and perform CPR if necessary.
5. Spread the word. If you have a food allergy, wear a medical ID bracelet to alert others in case of an emergency. Teach friends, family and coworkers what to do in the event of an allergic reaction. If your child has a severe food allergy, talk to their school. Stress the importance of following your child’s personalized emergency action plan.
Lauren’s Hope provides a large selection of medical ID bracelets and necklaces which can be engraved with critical medical information. If your child has a life threatening food or drug allergy it is important that they wear a medical ID bracelet engraved with their name, food or drug allergy, instructions regarding treatment or medications and an emergency contact number. You can view our medical ID bracelets at www.laurenshope.com