It's hard to avoid the tragic headline news stories of young
children who have died from anaphylactic and allergic reactions.
Recently, a 12-year-old girl in Ontario died of an anaphylactic
reaction after eating ice cream at the local mall. Sadly, her story
is not unique to Ontario or Canada — with similar tragedies
happening regularly around the world.
Anaphylactic reactions are often the result of underlying causes
or new exposures that may not have triggered a reaction in the
past. In an effort to reduce the number of deaths from anaphylaxis,
organizations, public venues, and recreational facilities should
conduct a risk-benefit analysis of housing Epi-Pen® and/or
Twin-Ject® epinephrine on site to help manage the symptoms of
According to the most recent statistics, more than 600,000
Canadians (1-2% of the entire population) are considered to be at
risk for anaphylaxis, the increase due to rising rates of allergies
Those suffering from a severe food allergy are limited in what
foods can or can't be consumed, requiring increased vigilance
to ensure that foods prepared outside the home are not
cross-contaminated with potentially life-threatening ingredients.
While living with food allergies is tough for most adults, it is
significantly more challenging for children and adolescents.
Sabrina Shannon was one of those children. The Ontario teen
suffered from multiple food allergies and was limited in what she
could and could not eat. Despite her knowledge, keen judgment, and
careful preparedness, Sabrina suffered an anaphylactic reaction to
a trace amount of a dairy protein that was caused by cross
contamination in her school cafeteria.
Following her tragic death, the Province of Ontario passed
Sabrina's Law (Bill 3) which requires all schools to have a
comprehensive anaphylaxis policy, and to implement strategies to
reduce the risks and exposures. Further recommendations include the
use of appropriate signage, as well as management, education, and
training in Epi-Pen® and/or Twin-Ject® use, and having
epinepherine on hand to administer in the event of an emergency.
Most notably, Sabrina's Law also provides immunity to
laypersons administering medications in an event of an emergency
(unless there is gross negligence), provided that the act is
undertaken in good faith and in response to an emergency
WHAT IS ANAPHYLAXIS?
Anaphylaxis is a potentially life threatening condition in which
individuals' bodies can activate an immune system response to a
potential allergen. These reactions can range in severity: from a
mild rash to a more severe respiratory compromise, and — if
unrecognized and untreated — even death. This results from an
exaggerated response to an otherwise benign exposure (such as food)
to which the individual may (or may not) have launched a similar
reaction in the past. There is no way of determining the potential
of a fatal anaphylactic reaction versus a mild one.
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