Following the request of parents Dan and Melissa Teuscher and other parents that requested a peanut ban in Arlington Heights School District 25, the superintendent has decided against an all peanut and/or nut ban, and has decided to focus instead on educating the school community about food and other allergies.
Parents Dan and Melissa Teuscher requested the district consider banning peanuts after their eight-year-old daughter, Lucca, suffered from a potentially deadly anaphylactic reaction from exposure to peanuts or a peanut product. Her symptoms included facial swelling, a restricted airway and a potentially blocked airway. The school nurse administered Lucca’s EpiPen, which gave Lucca an epinephrine shot to try to alleviate symptoms, but she still had difficulty breathing. Epinephrine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that is secreted dynamically from the body’s adrenal glands above the kidneys, and the ends of sympathetic nerve fibers all over the body. Epinephrine is also a life-saving medication in the treatment of anaphylaxis that is used to strengthen the body’s own epinephrine response.
Effects of Epinephrine on the Body for Fight or Flight
Increases heart rate;
Increases respiratory rate (breathing rate);
Causes relaxation of smooth muscle that surrounds airways (bronchioles), which opens airways;
Causes constriction of arterioles, which constricts blood flow to peripheral skin areas, which can slow absorption and spread of an allergen or harmful reactive chemicals;
Stimulates glycogenolysis, which provide blood glucose for metabolism and energy;
Stimulates lipolysis, which provides fat fuel for metabolism and energy; and
Stimulates muscle contractions, which puts skeletal muscles in overdrive for stronger and faster contractions, but can also cause tremors and hyperaction that decreases coordination.
Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic reactions are true emergencies faced by patients and healthcare providers, whether the cause is a peanut, a bee sting or other allergen. If you have ever seen emergency room healthcare staff or paramedics work extremely fast in a career of emergencies, the treatment of anaphylaxis with potential or actual airway obstruction is one of the most urgent situations.
Superintendent Bein decided against a peanut/nut ban because she did not believe it is possible to completely enforce a ban, and she understood that prohibiting peanuts from school grounds doesn’t address other types of food or severe allergies.
Several opponents of the peanut/nut ban claimed that the ban doesn’t prepare allergy patients for life after school where peanut exposure could happen anytime. While there are exceptions, severe reactions are unlikely to be caused by merely smelling or touching food with fingers. Severe reactions can be caused by touching an allergenic food, such as a peanut or peanut butter, and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. Also, steaming, boiling, frying, grating, shedding, or grinding peanut products can cause airborne peanut particles, which can be inhaled and can cause allergic reactions and anaphylaxis. Also, peanut flour or “dusty” roasted peanuts are peanut products that are more likely to have particles that become airborne. Again while there may be exceptions, the smell of peanut butter isn’t likely to cause an allergic reaction. The smell of peanut butter is related to volatile organic compounds evaporating in the air, not the actual protein pieces that cause the allergic reaction.
Another problem is cross-contact in foods. A fellow student could share spaghetti, unaware that the spaghetti sauce has been cooked with peanut butter or peanut flour as a sauce thickener. Many candies and chocolates are also processed with trace amounts of peanuts. There are many other possible combinations of cross contact.
In a letter to parents, District 25 Superintendent Lori Bein said she will be creating a committee to develop educational experiences for students, families and community members. About two dozen people have expressed interest in being on the peanut/nut allergy awareness committee, according to the superintendent.
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