Olympic Elementary takes extreme measures...


I was requested by Mr. Rick Little to forward this story to you about his child's allergies to peanuts. It has been Ok'd by our Managing Editor as long as Erin (the reporter) and The Daily News are given their appropriate credits. I look forward to viewing it on your site. Please let me know if there is anything else I can assist you with.


Kurt Grindeland TDN Online Manager


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Olympic Elementary takes extreme measures to protect 6-year-old boy with severe allergy

Erin Middlewood The Daily News

When Lorraine Little sends her son off to his first day of grade school, she'll be more apprehensive than most parents on that day. She'll be terrified.

Six-year-old Lance has a peanut allergy so severe that even smelling them can send him into anaphylactic shock, which shuts down the respiratory system and can cause cardiac arrest. "The first week is going to be really scary for me," she said. "I've had nightmares already."

Though Lance attended Olympic Elementary last year as a kindergartner, he was only there half a day. That meant he missed the riskiest time of the school day for him: Lunch. "We don't know what it will take to make him safe at school," said his mother, an occupational therapist for the Longview School District. "I'm really terrified even though we put a lot of things in place." As Dr. June Hawkins, Lance's Portland-area allergist put it, the youngster's allergy is "life-threatening" and "any exposure to peanut is dangerous and should be prevented."

That's pretty hard to do, given that peanut butter goes with school, well, like it goes with jelly. Lance's first-grade teacher, Phil Hartley, sent letters to his students and their parents. Along with telling them where their classroom is located, the letter also informed them of Lance's allergy. He requested that "Room 5 be a peanut-free area this year."

"A lot of the kids know from last year that Lance is allergic to peanuts," Hartley said. "I foresee that all the parents will hop on board." His letter asks parents to send peanut-free lunches and snacks. Hartley will check students' lunch boxes as they arrive each day. The Littles, Olympic Principal Karen Acker and Hartley developed what's called a 504 plan, named for a subsection of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It outlines each party's responsibilities for making sure Lance is safe.

Curriculum Director Tim Esche, who tracks all 504 plans, said Lance's "is the most elaborate in the district." About 100 or 120 students in the district have such plans, which deal with a wide-range of disabilities. The lunchtime protocol in Lance's plan is almost a page long. Among other things, it says students who bring peanut products "will eat in a designated 'peanut area' in the classroom that can be thoroughly cleaned after lunch."

If several students bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, Lance and a couple of friends will dine in the library. Hartley will have to sniff around because "if you can smell peanut butter ... Lance should not enter that room," the plan says. When Lance's parents tell people his allergy is that severe, "a lot of people don't believe us," Lorraine Little said. It's the proteins in peanuts that make his immune system go nuts, she explained, and they can enter his body without him actually eating peanuts. Lance had his first anaphylactic reaction when he was 3 years old, his mother said. One evening he seemed listless and kept complaining he was cold. His breathing was labored. Then he started passing out. Lorraine and Rick Little took him to the hospital, where Lance got a shot of epinephrine, a hormone that raises blood pressure and opens the air passages to the lungs.

They did some sleuthing, and found that at day care, Lance ate a bite of a granola bar that contained peanut butter.

"It was the first time we even had a clue," Lorraine Little said. After testing, an allergist told them Lance was also allergic a number of foods, as well as grass pollens and animal hair, but that the peanut allergy was life-threatening.

"His whole body was constantly at war with the world," Lorraine Little said. The doctor told the Littles that Lance's reaction to peanuts may become milder when he hits adolescence, but the allergy probably will never go away.

The Littles learned to check food labels carefully, keeping an eye out for peanut oils and peanut flour. They avoid buying candies or cookies that might be made on a factory line that also makes products containing peanuts.

It's changed their lives, Lorraine Little said. But even with those precautionary measures, Lance has had a couple of reactions since the first one.

When he was 4, his preschool class made peanut-butter bird feeders. Lance didn't participate, but he was in the same room. He came home sneezing, coughing and rubbing his eyes. "He was going into anaphylactic shock," his mother said. Now Lance wears a little pouch around his waist. It holds liquid Benadryl, an antihistamine, and two shots of epinephrine. Lance said if kids ask about his pouch, he replies, it's "just in case someone brings peanuts. I get sick." If Lance starts sneezing, gets hives, or has trouble breathing at school, it means he's been exposed to peanuts, and the teacher or school nurse should give him a shot of epinephrine, a dose of Benadryl and call 911. The Littles say they're grateful for the school's cooperation. They weren't sure how other parents would react to the request that their kids not bring peanut products to school.

"It does push people's buttons," Lorraine Little. "They see it as their freedom." But both Lance's teacher and principal said they haven't heard any complaints from parents so far. As for students, many of those in Lance's first-grade class were in kindergarten with him. "Last year, after a couple of weeks, they were the watchdogs," Hartley said. "They were watching out for Lance."

Peanut allergy quick facts

Researchers estimate that as many as 5 percent of children suffer from food allergies, an abnormal immune system response to harmless foods. The most common culprits: peanuts, "tree nuts" (almonds and walnuts, for example), milk, wheat, soy and eggs.

While children usually outgrow allergies to milk, eggs and wheat, peanut allergies are lifelong.

Peanuts can cause an allergic reaction that is among the most severe to any food. Mild reactions can include hives, itching and swelling in and around the mouth. More serious reactions to peanuts can include anaphylactic shock, which causes difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhea, and even cardiac arrest.

Peanuts and their byproducts are found in many foods, including some people might not expect. Sometimes peanuts are used as a thickener in chili and spaghetti sauces, for instance.

Sources: Food Allergy Network Web site at [url="http://www.foodallergy.org"]http://www.foodallergy.org[/url] and The Mayo Clinic Health Oasis Web site at [url="http://www.mayohealth.org"]http://www.mayohealth.org[/url]

------------------ Stay Safe