Attack on Allergies
Danielle Cicka - Associate Editor
September 30, 2009
Filed under Features
Red blotches begin to appear as the skin starts to swell. Subsequently, irritating itching is acknowledged with intense scratching. Hives are just one of many serious allergic reactions. Allergies are a normal part of many people’s lives, but the precautions the school takes for the serious allergies and how students deal with them are less commonly thought about.
Unknown to many, several students at Westminster deal with life-threatening allergies on a daily basis including beestings and peanuts. Kaylee Rosen, junior, is one of these students that suffer from serious allergies. She is severely allergic to peanuts, shellfish, and fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, and apples.
“At my house it’s ok because I know what’s in the food I’m eating, but I have to be careful at restaurants. I have to watch them make it or make sure that they are wearing gloves,” said Rosen.
If she is not careful about what she consumes, her throat will essentially begin to close up. Twice a week, Rosen receives shots to help control her allergies.
Amanda Wiele, senior, also must be extremely careful with what she eats due to her severe peanut allergy.
“I always have to ask if the food has peanuts, but because so many things say ‘may contain peanuts’, most people don’t know if the food does or not. I usually end up not eating it,” said Wiele.
She especially has to be careful with desserts with chocolate and when she goes to restaurants.
“I have to tell restaurants that I have a peanut allergy or they could contaminate my food by touching something with peanuts,” said Wiele.
This happened once when she ate at St. Louis Bread Company and her turkey sandwich had been cut with a knife that had cut a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She had a severe reaction from this.
The school takes precautions for students with severe allergies such as food and seasonal allergies.
“In the spring, I make sure the teachers close the windows because my allergies are so bad,” said Rosen.
Seasonal allergies are also major problems and in addition to closing the windows, some students can not participate in P.E. classes held outside.
For students with food allergies, the cafeteria must take measures to ensure the safety of these students.
“We are aware of some very severe peanut allergies. When we have peanut butter and jelly, it is made in a whole different area with no chance of contaminating the other food, said Shari Kleyn, who works in the food department.
When other items with peanuts in are served, they are always packaged and sealed in order to avoid anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
In addition, the school tries to prohibit bringing homemade snacks that contain nuts for classes for this reason. The only exception is International Day, where students bring in homemade food from another country. Although there is a separate table just for items containing nuts, there is no guarantee that students did not contaminate the food by touching nuts while cooking. Public schools ban all homemade foods for a class, but Westminster would like to avoid this extreme.
“Until we have major problems, we will allow homemade foods and people like to eat the goodies,” said Sue Haverstick, nurse.
Students must take their own precautions as well. Many students, who suffer from severe allergies, carry an epi pen. This contains one dose of epinephrine, which causes the heart to pump harder and open airways, in a “pen” which can be injected if a severe reaction occurs.
“I usually keep an epi pen near me or with the nurse,” said Jeffery Meyers, freshman.
Students can help students with allergies by being aware of those that have them and watching what they eat around them. Sometimes the smell itself can irritate them.
“It is important not to make light of anyone with symptoms of a severe allergic reaction because it is an emergency and can deteriorate very quickly,” said Haverstick.
Although students with allergies have learned how to prevent reactions, this does not take away from the fact that they can not share all of the pleasures as their friends.
“It is hard being at lunch with everyone when they all are eating peanut butter sandwiches,” said Meyers.