Allergic Teenager Dies After Ant Attack: Where Was the EpiPen?!

Heartbreaking 11

Devastated parents in Texas are dealing with the tragic and senseless death of their 13-year-old son. The middle school football player died four days after suffering an allergic reaction to ant bites while playing on the field. 

Cameron Espinosa was having fun and competing in a football game at Haas Middle School in Corpus Christi last Wednesday when he noticed the ants crawling near him during halftime. He yelled, "Ants! Ants!" The teen immediately collapsed to the ground and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on Sunday. 

According to the school's principal, the football coach told the young boy to "get a water bottle and spray yourself off," which leads me to wonder if he was even aware the child was severely allergic to ants. And if he were aware of his allergies, why wasn't he trained to help the child? 

To the school's credit, most District members appear to be taking responsibility for this tragedy or, at the very least, admitting the school could have done more to protect Cameron. One school board member and former baseball coach even said he has personally found more than 20 ant piles on the field. Were Cameron's parents made aware of this fact? Because I can tell you that as a parent -- as overbearing as this may make me sound -- this alone may have made me think twice before allowing my son to play football at the school. 

We don't know for sure whether the football coach and other staff members involved in the extracurricular activity knew about Cameron's allergies, but his mother, Josephine Limone, seems to think so. She has told reporters that having more trained personnel on the field, or even something as simple as an EpiPen, could have saved her son's life. And she's right. 

As a former teacher, I can say with certainty that our school's nurse held on to children's EpiPens throughout the day. Several teachers were also trained each year on how to use the EpiPen in case an emergency occurred. I assumed coaches, who spend a great deal of time around these students, were also aware of their students' allergies and how to help treat them -- but now I'm questioning whether this is true. It's devastating to think that these parents are mourning the loss of their son, and there's no question the football coach and other school personnel are heartbroken, as well.

I hope the one good thing to come out of this is that schools become more aware of how important it is to train all staff members, including coaches, on how to use EpiPens and spot allergic reactions. 

Do you feel confident that your child's school is equipped to deal with allergies? 


Image via Aldo Cauchi Savona/Flickr

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nonmember avatar Emmie

EpiPens are prescribed by a doctor for a specific person. I have yet to hear about a school keeping them handy in a first aid kit. The kid in this article had no known allergies, therefore, no EpiPen.

nonmember avatar Leslie B

Wow, this is terrible and might be a good reason to keep general epipens on hand, so that someone could administer them to students (with guidance from the ambulance). I've had anaphylactic shock from ant bites myself (which is what this kid had), prior to full hives on my body and my throat swelling, I had had one small incident of a few hives, so he may not have been life threateningly allergic before. Epipens are prescribed to a person, but this does make the case for keeping them around to be used much as defribillators are used- for worst case scenario. However, epipens can't be in heat above 80 degrees which makes them more challenging. This is pretty awful and the only reason I didn't die is because I realized I was having an allergic reaction and took Benadryl, however my reaction occurred over 30 minutes and right when my throat started closing, the benadryl kicked in, thankfully.

nonmember avatar KateG

I read an article on this earlier. The family was not aware that the boy was allergic to fire ants. I was 16 when I developed my allergy to fire ants. I could get bit by them as a kid and not have any issues with them. Now, even 1 fire ant bite causes me to have breathing problems. Would an EpiPen have been available to him without a prescription? My understanding is schools only keep EpiPens for those who are prescribed them. At least, that's how my niece's school is. It's a tragic accident that could have been prevented by the landscapers ensuring that all the ant hills were treated before allowing players to go on the field. Also, they didn't have a trained medical staff on hand. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if they did. Either way, my heart goes out to his family.

Kate Cooley

My son has an Epi-Pen at school for his peanut allergy. The school can't just "get some" and keep them on hand - they're specifically prescribed by your doctor. It's just like saying "What, you can't keep oxycontin on hand in case someone gets hurt?" No, you can't.

nonmember avatar jessica

I didnt know i was allergic to fire ants til i was 16 and stepped on a bed and had about 20 bites on each foot. It was the same with sawdust as well, i didnt know til i was boarding up my house for hurricane ike.

nonmember avatar Sue

It is prohibited in most school districts to use an epipen on a student unless it has been prescribed for that particular student. Liability. If the parent is there and agrees to it, I guess that would be allowed. But I know that I would most likely be fired if I used someone else's epipen on a student.

Nelli... NellieAthome

Lack of research again - big surprise

The boy had no known allergy to ants - so lay off the coach. According to ABC news " A coach ran over and attempted to squirt the ants off Espinosa's legs using a water bottle shortly before the 13-year-old lost consciousness and collapsed on the field, according to a spokeswoman for the school.

The coach called 911 while an assistant coach ran to a nearby gym to find a defibrillator, which they used to restart the boy's heart."

So it appears the coach did everything they could do.

Nelli... NellieAthome

Emmie - you might be interested to know that  "staff at schools in 30 states, including Texas, are allowed to inject an EpiPen in students even if they do not have a prescription for it," and that  last week "a bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate that would encourage states to require schools to stock epinephrine. The most well-known version of the medication is the EpiPen, a brand of the injectable form, which drives adrenaline into the person suffering an allergic attack."

Also, " even if an EpiPen is injected into a kid who didn’t actually need it, the medication won’t cause any harm, allergists say." [all quotes from MSNBC news]

Further, the EpiPen needs to be used immediately the symptoms appear, stored in a nurse's office on the other side of campus is a bad idea because the longer the wait the less likely it is to help.

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