Early January, seven-year old Ammaria Johnson died of “cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis” due to eating a peanut on her school’s playground.  Shortly after eating the nut, Ammaria made her teacher aware of discomfort she felt in her throat, and was thus taken to the school nurse.  She was pronounced dead when eventually arriving at the hospital in her local town.

The drama and controversy due to this tragedy cannot be overlooked.  Essentially, everyone (including her mom, the school, the system, etc.) is responsible for this death; however, no one being or entity is completely at fault.  The fault should be put on the way in which “WE” educate others on allergies, especially those of children.  Lack of education, while a seemingly boring, topic and lack of proactivity are crucial factors that lead to Ammaria’s accidental death.

The innocent, young boy or girl who unknowingly gave his/her classmate a deadly snack should have been given a way of knowing that such an act would’ve lead to the worst possible result.  The teacher should have made all of her students repetitively aware (almost to the point of exasperation) that any “funny business” with nuts or other food items could have consequences.  The mom should have put an emergency bracelet or necklace on Ammaria so all others knew she had a problem.  Teachers in general should have equipment on hand and proper training regarding ways to immediately react to allergies.  However, should haves aren’t going to bring her back.

Allergies are on the rise, so we must to be more proactive than reactive when it comes to such life-or-death situations.  Most allergy reactions caused by nuts can be avoided, yet they are still happening everywhere: on airplanes, in restaurants with buffets, in dining halls, in bakeries, on the school playground.  If we start educating each level in the chain of command on what to do with those who have allergies, then these tragedies can vanish.  Allergies are a disability; if a school had no ramps or elevators and a wheelchair-bound boy fell off his wheelchair while trying to get to the second floor via the stairs, would we kick him while he was on the ground? No. We have means of helping those who cannot fully help themselves in order to give each individual the most normal life possible.

As thousands have already responded to Ammaria’s story, I would love to hear your feedback.


Growing Up Allergic, Plus

Maybe I’m a problemed individual?

Growing up with both severe allergies and asthma, I went to the hospital at least 6 times before the age of 6 because I either ate something I was allergic to or because I couldn’t catch my breath. While “everyone’s got issues,” I’ve got issues to deal with on a daily basis–no matter what. But maybe I’m not the only one with health problems that are on the defense at all times? After recently reading an Everyday Health article, which has both interesting yet mostly obvious suggestions for anyone who already understands asthma, I was told of ways asthmatics should deal with breathing issues in cold climates, I found myself asking myself questions. Who else is in my shoes? Is this a situation of what came first–the chicken or the egg? Like, are these diseases related?

Thankfully Google came to the rescue. What I discovered, without getting too technical, is that about 5 years ago scientists discovered that persons who genetically lacked filaggrin (a protein found in the outer layers of one’s skin) almost always have severe asthma. Lack of filaggrin is a genetic defect that decreases the skins ability to keep “foreign organisms [like irritants and allergens] out.”  I then went on to learn that “one in five of all peanut allergy sufferers has a Filaggrin defect.”

Essentially, my questions were answered after 10 minutes. Whether or not my quick search is the all-mighty truth, that asthma and peanut allergies often come as a pair, I believe there’s a reason I have both in such a severe way.  And clearly I’m not alone, poor kiddos!  Maybe one day a little tiny pill or the snap of one’s fingers will magically fix it all. But until then all we can continue to do is understand and monitor it as best as we can.