Arizona schools doing more to protect kids from allergic reactions

GILBERT, AZ - If you've ever had a child suffer an allergic reaction then you know how scary it can be.

Right now, there's a big push in Arizona schools to prevent these types of attacks.

"I feel a little bit scared on the bus," explained Jacqueline Everhart, "I'm afraid if someone ever touches me or something."
That's because the precocious 3rd grader is gravely allergic to peanuts.

"I felt devastated because I'm the one that gave it to her," said Jacqueline's mother Monica Everhart. She remembers the first time she fed her then 18-month-old peanut butter.

"Gave her a quarter of a teaspoon, put her down for a nap," Everhart recalled, "Coughing, hacking, wheezing [and] by then her eyes were swollen shut, hives head to toe problems breathing so I called 911.

Now, 8 1/2 years old Jacqueline knows exactly what to do if she goes into anaphylactic shock. She uses an EpiPen.

An EpiPen is an injection used to treat severe allergic reactions to things like insect stings, bites, drugs or allergens.

"So if I have a reaction and I can't really talk I just show them this and flip it over."
"In these situations time is of the essence," explained Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal. He supports a law being proposed at the Federal level, requiring all public schools to stock EpiPens to help stop severe allergic reactions.

"When an allergic reaction is unfolding they need to act," Huppenthal said. "That's why they need to be prepared with the training so they have confidence to act."

Currently, there is no law that mandates schools to stock EPI pens, but Huppenthal said nurses in Arizona are being offered training on how to assist students with injections.  Given our state's nursing shortage, however, he recommends parents be proactive and talk to your child's school about any allergies.

"They have it set up here at school that she has a peanut allergy table," Everhart smiled thankfully. "So she's not sitting with her classmates but she's at a separate table that's is sterilized and cleaned separately."

All of Jacqueline's teachers and classmates at her school, Weinberg Elementary in Gilbert, know to keep peanuts out of her path.
"Just having to know that I'm allergic to just like scatters me," Jacqueline smiled.
 And our state is taking steps to put kids, like her, at ease.

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