A Rise of Peanut Allergies at Wayne Valley

A Rise of Peanut Allergies at Wayne Valley

Hayley Sussman, Staff Writer

The young freshman girl walks into the dirty lunchroom packed with hungry, babbling and excited students. She sweats nervously as she glances around the lunchroom for a clean table and finds one filled with some friendly-looking girls. They are nibbling on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while their eyes are glued to their iPhones. She rushes over to the table, hesitant at first to sit down due to the growing fear in her gut. The nervous girl lays her sweaty palms on the table, and her backpack on the ground. But she cannot do it. She cannot sit down. The smell. The nausea. Her throat grows itchy. She knows that her mind is playing tricks on her, but no matter what, she cannot force herself to have lunch at this table. She quickly runs out of the lunchroom.

In this situation, a child allergic to peanuts faces one of his or her greatest fears; having an allergic reaction. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, 1 in 13 children in the United States is diagnosed with a food allergy. Also, according to FARE, nearly 3 million people “report allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.” Studies show that the number of children living with peanut allergies has “tripled” between 1997 and 2008. A peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, and can cause a severe, “potentially fatal,” allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which includes the “swelling of the airways and throat,” which may be deadly. This epidemic is emerging worldwide, but also holds a strong presence here at Wayne Valley High School.

According to Nurse Deutsch, the number of students at Wayne Valley with peanut allergies has “definitely increased” over the years. She claims that every year, a significant number of students in the incoming classes reports having any type of food allergy, a majority of those–peanuts. Nurse Deutsch advises that the most efficient way for a student with a peanut allergy to spread awareness about peanut allergies is “verbally,” by a student with the allergy. Deutsch goes on to describe, “There is not a particular way for administrators and students to ‘improve’ the treatment regarding peanut allergies. ‘Improvement’ is up to the student to receive medical testing and treatment with the allergy. But, we most definitely can spread awareness about peanut allergies among students around the school.” 

Senior Julia Carr suggests, “Students can spread awareness to others around the school in many ways. Perhaps on the morning announcements, or student council can host a Food Allergy Awareness Week when they discuss the precautions that students should take regarding allergies, and the risks that allergic students have within lunchrooms and classrooms.”

How can we help stop this emerging epidemic? The truth is, we cannot prevent a child from acquiring an allergy. But, we, as humans of Wayne Valley, have the power to help those with  peanut and other food allergies around the school. Be considerate of those around you in a lunchroom or classroom. If you are eating a PB&J sandwich, check if the person sitting next to you at the lunch table is allergic to peanuts. Remember the risks and dangers this allergic student has. These students struggle everyday with the risk of an allergic reaction. The number of high school students with a peanut allergy is rising quickly, but students of Wayne Valley can make great efforts to bring awareness to food allergies around the school.