Olympic Elementary takes extreme measures...

Posted on: Fri, 09/10/1999 - 9:15am
Chris PeanutAllergy Com's picture
Joined: 04/25/2001 - 09:00

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



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
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
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

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

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
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


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