Peanut Allergy

Sharon and Kevin Pudwell are worried parents. Their three-year-old daughter Janessa has had eczema since she was four months old. Since then Janessa has had blood tests which show allergy to all the main food groups.

The Pudwells are worried that when Janessa goes to public school system next year, she will be exposed to food that she is allergic to. They feel that there is limited awareness to allergic problems in children in the school system.

Sharon is also worried that in an emergency situation, not many people in the health profession and others know how to use auto-injection Epi-Pen (epinephrine).

A recent news item in this paper heightens this anxiety: Allergic girl misses bus. A photograph shows Lori-Ann Wilburn drives her daughter Allison, 6, to St. Michael’s School each day from Redcliff with her Epi-Pen kit because Tot-Em Transportation has refused to drive her to school due to her severe peanut butter allergy.

A survey report in The Medical Post says: Primary care physicians are not well prepared to instruct patients about the auto-injector system as an emergency treatment for anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis means severe allergic reaction that can be rapid and deadly.

Administering one dose of epinephrine in a preloaded syringe auto-injector (EpiPen) is felt to be the best method of treating accidental exposure to an allergen. It is a lifesaver.

Dr. Masoud Grouhi, an immunologist, allergist and pediatrician in Toronto who did the survey, says he is disappointed by the findings. Those prescribing EpiPen should be certain they know how to explain its use properly as it is quite often used in a “panic situation”.

Sharon belongs to Anaphylactic Network of Canada. But there is no local chapter. Sharon has tried to start a support group in Medicine Hat but the response has been very poor. Sharon feels that children with food allergies (e.g. peanuts) should carry EpiPen in their pocket. They should know how it works. She wants parents to be aware of this.

Canadian School Boards Association in conjunction with Health Canada has a booklet called: ANAPHYLAXIS: A Handbook for School Boards. The book deals with different aspects of anaphylaxis. It says that a growing number of school boards across the country are developing policies to help principals, teachers and the school community protect anaphylactic children.

The book says in 1994, a student on a field trip to Algonquin Park in Ontario died from trace amounts of peanut butter, which had been transferred to a jam jar. A child attending camp in Montreal died after eating a cheese sandwich that had been packed in the same bag with a peanut butter sandwich.

Dr. Dave Beresh, Superitendant of Medicine Hat School District No. 76 says that the Board has no specific policy on dealing with food allergies. This is left to the individual schools to establish “Best Practices”. The Board has policy E-32 (Medical Treatments for Students) which addresses the subject of allergies in a minute e way.

But the Ontario Allergy Society suggests that schools should develop a system of identifying children with life threatening allergies in order to prevent anaphylaxis.

The pamphlet says that children should have their own epinephrine auto- injector device labeled by name and expiry date.

Avoidance of specific allergen is the cornerstone of management in preventing anaphylaxis. If you are interested in joining a support group for severe food allergies then Sharon Pudwell is waiting for your call (527-0997). Please call her today.

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