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Food Allergies A Serious Problem For Children, Young People

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DURHAM — It only takes minutes for an allergic reaction to kill a child.

Potentially dangerous foods like peanuts and eggs are in restaurants, school cafeteriasand grocery stores. Selecting menus is not an easy task.

When Sharon Fakrat goes grocery shopping, it is like walking through a minefield. Her two year old son, Bryce, is allergic to nuts and dairy products.

"It's not so simple just to run in and fill your cart up with goodies," she says."You know what can be difficult? Shopping with a child [saying] 'mommy, mommy, look at this', [and] you look at thiswonderful packaging and you read the ingredients and this has whey, which is a milkproduct."

Six year old Sean Henshaw wears a medical bracelet to alert everyone to his food allergies

At Chesterbrook Academy, Sean's teacher, Kimberly Schlink, keeps hismedicine locked in the classroom.

"His mom brought in some pictures so we'd know what he'd look like if hehad a reaction," Schlink says.

His first aid bag is full of benadryl and a shot of epinephrine--or what's known asan eppy pen. The drug helps peoplebreath during a severe allergic reaction.

"In the beginning of the year I was very nervous about doing the right thing and knowing how to respond, but his momwent through everything we need to know for him."

Sean's mother, Susan Henshaw, wishes all schools had a standard plan todeal with children who have food allergies.

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"I took a look at the different schools around here and they said well we'll manage it you know we'll have the penlocked up in the nurses office and the nurse may or may not bethere. That's not good enough because he really has fiveminutes before he has to have the medicine or have an ambulance there," she says.

Even if an ambulance got there quickly, Sean could still be in trouble. In North CarolinaBasic Emergency Medical Technicians--or EMT's-- cannot administer epinephrine.

"They could stick a tube down his throat to help him breathe, but couldn't stop the reaction. That's a risk depending onhow far you are from the hospital," Henshaw says.

It is lunchtime at St. Mary Magdalene School in Apex and you will not find any of these kindergartners enjoying a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich. They are not allowed.

After noticing 10% of the students have peanut allergies--theschool decided to go "nut free". The principal, Robert Cadran, isespecially sensitive to the issue after losing his 19 year olddaughter Erica to a severe food allergy reaction six years ago.

"I wouldn't want any of my parents here at St. Mary Magdalene to go through what my wife and I went through with ourdaughter. I pray it won't happen to any students here."

St. Mary Magdalene believes all parents should be more cautious and better educatedabout food allergies.

It is estimated more than six million Americans have food allergies. Nearly 200 Americansdie each year because of severe allergic reactions.

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