09 January 2012

Peanut Allergy Kills 7 Year Old Girl at School...

(CNN) -- The death of a 7-year-old Virginia girl from a suspected peanut allergy at school has raised questions about how prepared school officials are to handle sudden reactions in children. First-grader Ammaria Johnson died Monday after breaking out in hives and complaining of shortness of breath at recess. School authorities called paramedics after she was taken to the nurse's office, said Lt. Jason Elmore, a spokesman for the Chesterfield County Fire Department in suburban Richmond."From what we understand, she possibly had gotten something outside," Elmore said. The clinic had no medication to give her and called 911, he said. "It's very straightforward. There is no magic to this," said Maria Acebal, the head of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. "It's just proper education, how to recognize it, and how to treat it."Acebal said 8% of American kids -- including one of hers -- have food allergies.
"When consequences can be life-threatening, then you've got to have schools prepared for an allergic reaction," she said.  Shawn Smith, a spokesman for the Chesterfield County school district, said administrators have extensive guidelines for treating students with severe allergies, and details of those guidelines were sent to parents last year. Parents have to provide any prescribed medication to the schools, along with a one-page form authorizing them to administer it in case of an emergency, he said. "When any or all of the resources are not provided, the public health nurse makes contact with the family in an effort to obtain the necessary medication," Smith said in a written statement to CNN.
One common treatment is the use of an epinephrine injector, a penlike device that administers the drug for a severe reaction. Those have to be prescribed by a doctor, and the school had no such device for Ammaria, Elmore said.  The girl's death remains under investigation, Chesterfield County police spokeswoman Elizabeth Caroon told CNN. Caroon said the body has been turned over to state medical examiners for an autopsy, but it was not clear whether that procedure had been performed Wednesday.  "It's absolutely doable to keep kids with food allergies safe at public school, but it requires education and preparedness," Acebal said. Ammarie's death "just underscores the need for all teachers to have the basics of food allergy safety as part of their orientation and continuing education."
After reading this article, it is very heart breaking that a young girl died at her school from a food allergy. I'm not sure if her parents didn't know about her having a peanut allergy?? (I don't know how not) But why didn't the school nurse have an epi-pen? I feel as if the school was not prepared, and if her allergy was known by the parents, they did not prepare their daughter of allergic reactions. This whole story is just so very sad. As a parent to a child with a severe life threatening peanut allergy, we are constantly teaching her what she can and cannot eat. My daughter is 3 years old and is starting to understand that there are certain things she cannot eat b/c they will make her sick and not be able to breathe. Yes, it is very important for parents to educate themselves and their allergy kid(s) everything that is involved with an allergic reaction, how to recognize symptoms, how to read food labels and how to use an epi-pen once they are old enough. In this specific situation, the school was completely unprepared with not having medicine on hand. They called 911, but in a life threatening event when your throat is closing is you do not have time to wait for paramedics, you need an epi-pen right away.

My husband and I have been debating whether or not our daughter will go to a public school because of her peanut allergy, or to home school her. We want her to go to school, but will absolutely be checking out the schools emergency plans in case of a food allergic reaction event. We both need to feel reassured that she will be safe in her learning environment, especially at lunch/snack time.


  1. I completely agree with what you're saying, they should have had medicine. Another part though is that many schools don't even have nurses any longer and it can be very scary for a school staff member to use something like that. Especially if it was an undiagnosed child or a child whose parents never shared that she was allergic. In the district I work in we have one nurse and one nurses assistant who work between three schools. We also have many parents who never share this kind of information. It's just a very hard situation. There are so many things for staff to be knowledgable on that it's hard to remember it all, and then you have subs, etc. Sounds like in your situation things would be covered well, and in our district we are very cautious and know how to use these things. As a parent as well of children with HIV, seizures, ADHD, etc. I also see it from the other side and it can be scary. Good luck in your decision!

  2. It is scary. So sad that little girl died. One of our boys is starting to show allergies and asthma. Hopefully he won't develop any food allergies, but family history is against him on that one.

  3. yes I agree in educating the child and teaching them it is not a game, it is serious. Heaven forbid the case was a "little boy/girl who cried wolf". Seems it may have occurred on the playground, in such event I would hope when/if Halie goes to any school setting her teacher would carry her epi-pen with her.