Peanut-Allergic Teen's Death Reminds Us to Always Be Prepared

cookiesAs the mom of a son with peanut allergies, what happened to Georgia teen Jharell Dillard absolutely terrifies me: The 15-year-old, who was severely allergic to nuts, died after eating a chocolate chip cookie that turned out to have peanuts. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital, but it was no use. Dillard's throat already swelled shut, fatally cutting off his airway.

Tragic. The teen's family said he was always extremely cautious with food, and I believe it: My son is only 5, and he's already suspicious of candy and baked goods he hasn't had before (probably because I've been drilling the tendency to be peanut-paranoid into his head since before he could walk).

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And we've been lucky -- my son's only reaction to peanuts so far, knock wood, has been to break out into hives, not to go into anaphylactic shock like Dillard.

I guess it just proves that with food, you never really know what's "safe" -- which is why it's equally as important for teens to carry an EpiPen at all times as it is for mothers with toddlers.

I can understand why a teen would think they were justified in leaving the EpiPen at home. I'm 16 years old, Mom, I think I can figure out if something has peanuts in it or not. I'm not a little kid anymore!

But severe, life-threatening allergic reactions can happen within minutes or even seconds of exposure to an offending substance. By the time paramedics make it to the scene, it's often too late.

That's why it's crucial to have an EpiPen immediately available, no matter how old you are. I know it's easy to get comfortable, to forget that the wolf is always at the door -- I'm guilty of it myself. 

Hopefully Dillard's passing will serve as a reminder to us all of the necessity to always be on guard.

Does your teen have a severe food allergy?

 

Image via Ann Larie Valentine/Flickr

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