Food allergies common among CHS students

By Jonathan Greenzaid, Online Editor-In-Chief

A beautiful day skiing in the wide mountains of Utah brings about exhilaration and enjoyment to everyone hitting the slopes—well, almost everyone. Confusion and panic take over as a 4-year-old boy breaks out in hives from eating a candy bar containing peanuts and is airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Junior Andrew Zuckerman happened to be that 4-year-old, and is one of over 70 students at CHS with a severe food allergy. The month of May is Food Allergy Action month, during which awareness of food allergies is spread.

“Teenagers are at a higher risk of experiencing an allergic reaction because they are used to not having a reaction since a young age,” nurse Deborah Stapleton said. “It is important that they are responsible and not impulsive with their actions.”

Allergies occur because the human body mistakes a common food as a foreign invader to the body, which triggers the production of antibodies to attack the allergen. The most severe symptoms of allergies include anaphylactic shock, which is characterized by low blood pressure, dilation of blood vessels and trouble breathing due to swelling in the body.

According to Stapleton, she has to use an Epipen, or an injection of epinephrine, around twice a year on students to counter the effects of anaphylactic shock.

“If a kid were to come in with the symptoms of an allergic reaction, they will be given epinephrine,” Stapleton said. “The ambulance is called and MCPS and parents are notified.”

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), food allergies affect one in 13 children under the age of 18 and a total of 15 million people in the U.S.

“The worst thing about having an allergy is that it restricts me to a smaller range of food which I can eat,” said junior Emily Birnbaum, a student who has Celiac disease, which means she cannot eat any wheat.

Despite having to be so cautious, having an allergy can have its advantages.

“The best part about having an allergy is that it forces me to eat healthier,” Zuckerman said. “I am forced to stay away from all things chocolate and other sweets like cake, cookies and pastries because of the likeliness that there are nuts in them.”

According to Stapleton, another 60 to 70 students have mild allergic reactions to foods.

Symptoms for mild allergic reactions include rashes, itches, and congestion. These symptoms can be relieved with Benadryl, and over the counter antihistamines.

“Students can help other students with allergies by not sharing food and cleaning up their area in the lunchroom if it is deadly to a person,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton is trained to use an Epipen and teaches different teachers around the school how to notice the symptoms of an allergic reaction and how to use an Epipen.

“All staff in CHS are informed of students will allergies and the teachers are all aware of what to do in case a student does have an allergic reaction,” Stapleton said.