The story of a 7-year-old Virginia girl who died at school, apparently of an allergic reaction to peanuts that the school had no epinephrine to treat, has upset a lot of parents and others who care about kids with food allergies this week. You can read more about that tragedy, and the gaping holes in the safety net that let it happen, in stories on CNN, About.com Food Allergies, About.com Pediatrics, and Allergy Moms. If you want to really feel scared, though, about the public level of concern for kids with life-threatening allergies, look no further than the comments on that CNN post, which should have a warning label of their own.
I'm not sure what it is about food allergies that causes people to just lose their humanity, but I've seen it among anonymous commenters and decent people of my acquaintance alike. I suspect it's related to our culture's tendency to bundle food with emotion, making the rejection of an edible an act of aggression. But you'd hope, with more information on food allergies available than ever -- and more kids than ever affected by them -- people would be starting to get it, and get over it, and work together to find a way to make kids safe that doesn't involve shunning them, doubting them, or killing them.
Perhaps a proposed law to make epinephrine available in schools without a child-specific prescription will help prevent the kind of treatment delay that likely took little Ammaria Johnson's life. The tragedy of public opinion ... that's going to take more work. For ideas on what to tell schools and schoolmates about allergies, read my articles on Preparing the School for Your Child With a Peanut Allergy and Preparing the School for Your Child With a Food Allergy. About.com's guide to Food Allergies, Jeanette Bradley, also has some good safety tips for kids.
If your school has found a good way to deal with food allergies, tell us about it on the Readers Respond page. And if your child has been bullied because of allergies, share those stories too. Surely, eventually, people will start to realize the depth to which this Is Not Right.
[A note on comments: Please be aware that this website is specifically for the parents of children with special needs, and therefore comments doubting the legitimacy of those needs, or suggesting children with special needs should abandon their right to a free, appropriate, and accessible public education, or proposing that kids whose special needs inconvenience others would be better off dead, are profoundly unwelcome. You may still post that comment, and I will read it, but I will make every effort to delete it before anybody else has to see it. Be a human being, willya?]
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