Protecting undiagnosed children against food allergies

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- It's a simple tool that can save a life. But 3TV has learned that Arizona schools don't have it. And there's now an effort underway to make sure every child is protected from an event many don't realize could kill them.

Only 14 years old and a freshman at Arcadia High School, Adrianna Aguirre was your typical valley
teenager. As her mom Karen Brown explains, "She was just into having fun and enjoying life and
had such a beautiful smile. People liked her."

Diagnosed with a peanut allergy at age four, the bubbly teen was always armed with an epi-pen and
knew to stay away from certain foods.

But while at a friend's house, Adrianna took a bite of Kellogg's Crunchy Nut cereal. Brown told
us, "I don't know what happened. I wish I could ask."

Adrianna did not have her epi-pen with her. "She went into anaphylactic shock," Brown says. "Her heart stopped and she was without air for 5 to 10 minutes. They tried 4 epi-pens but it was too late. She doesn't talk, she doesn't move. She eats through a feeding tube."

Preventing tragedies like this is at the heart of Senate Bill 1421. State Senator Linda Lopez
says, "This can actually prevent children from dying."

SB 1421 will equip schools with epinephrine pens and train staff to administer the medication if
they suspect a student is experiencing an allergic reaction. As Senator Lopez explains, "This law
is for those children who are not already diagnosed."

Research shows food allergies are becoming rampant,particularly peanut allergies. In fact,  according to the AZ Asthma and Allergy Institute, the number of those allergies has tripled in the last decade.

"Two kids in every classroom have a food allergy.," says Senator Lopez. Those are the kids that we know about. What about the children we don't know about?"

Doctor Levente Erdos is with the Arizona Asthma and Allergy Institute, "25 percent of allergic reactions
occurring at school to kids are to children that have no known diagnosis of an allergy," Dr. Erdos tells us. "It's their first time reacting to something."

As Brown explains, "It only takes that one time. The worst thing that ever happened to my
daughter before this was hives."

But is epinephrine safe? Dr. Erdos told us, "If the kid is in respiratory distress from some other issue and it's not sure if it's an allergic reaction, it's far, far, far better to give that than do nothing."

Adrianna's mom Karen tells us: "I want them to look at her and say we can prevent this." Which is why Karen stands behind the proposed legislation. For now, she continues to work with Adrianna and remains hopeful that one day her condition will improve. "I look at her and I see this beautiful young woman and everything she could have become."

The Arizona Food Allergy Alliance has been working along side Senator Lopez on this legislation which would require school districts and charter schools to stock two juvenile doses and two adult doses of epinephrine auto-injectors if the Legislature appropriates sufficient funding and establishes policies, procedures and training to administer epinephrine auto-injectables. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates it will cost $444,000-700,000 annually to provide the devices.