Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Molly Lowitzer (Collierville High School)
During the past year, girls in both Virginia and Illinois have died due to a lack of epinephrine in schools. If they had known about their allergies, the two could have had an EpiPen with them, but that’s the thing with allergies: They can develop anytime, anywhere.
“Make sure you have your EpiPen with you!” has been my mother’s mantra for me for as long as I can remember. For her, my EpiPen equals my ultimate safety net in this world for a good reason: I have a severe allergy to peanuts.
Having an allergy simply means that when you ingest the allergen, your body mistakenly thinks you’ve put something harmful in. This causes an internal series of events, triggering mast (or allergy) cells to release a chemical into your blood stream. This chemical is referred to as a histamine, which is why medications like Benedryl, Claritin, and Xyratex are sometimes referred to as antihistamines.
Doctors have compiled a list of the eight most common food allergens, which consist of milk, egg, peanut, soy, wheat, tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, etc.), fish, and shellfish (such as shrimp).
Many people with nut and shellfish allergies are particularly susceptible to a type of reaction called anaphylaxis, something requiring more than just a few Benedryls coupled with a nap. When someone goes into anaphylactic shock, their airway swells, blood pressure drops dangerously low, and breathing becomes difficult.
Something as life-threatening as this needs epinephrine, which is where my EpiPen and the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act come into play.
Since the girls’ deaths, there has been a push from within the U.S. House and Senate to get a “stockpile” of epinephrine in schools and to allow the drug to be administered to any student in need.
President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Nov. 13.
According to the nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education, over 30 states now have either a law or guideline allowing schools to stock epinephrine, including Tennessee. And seven additional states have laws or guidelines requiring schools to stock epinephrine.
This helps ensure that children with unidentified allergies and children like me, who carry an EpiPen, will have a backup if anything goes wrong.