Local News

Food Allergies A Serious Problem For Children, Young People

Posted May 11, 2001 2:31 a.m. EDT

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

Potentially dangerous foods like peanuts and eggs are in restaurants, school cafeterias and 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 this wonderful packaging and you read the ingredients and this has whey, which is a milk product."

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 his medicine locked in the classroom.

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

His first aid bag is full of benadryl and a shot of epinephrine--or what's known as an eppy pen. The drug helps people breath 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 mom went through everything we need to know for him."

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


"I took a look at the different schools around here and they said well we'll manage it you know we'll have the pen locked up in the nurses office and the nurse may or may not be there. That's not good enough because he really has five minutes 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 Carolina Basic 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 on how 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 peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They are not allowed.

After noticing 10% of the students have peanut allergies--the school decided to go "nut free". The principal, Robert Cadran, is especially sensitive to the issue after losing his 19 year old daughter 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 our daughter. I pray it won't happen to any students here."

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

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