Allergies can be serious, but emergency health professionals often overlook them. . Unfortunately, one grieving mother, Shelly LeGere, has suffered because of the inaccessibility of EpiPens in public places, and is now advocating for a change.
Her daughter, 13-year-Annie LeGere, was at a sleepover at a friend’s house in August when she started having trouble breathing, according to the Chicago Tribune. Since Annie had seasonal allergies, her mother brought some Benadryl with her on her way to pick Annie up. Unfortunately, Annie’s reaction was worse than usual, and by the time her mother arrived, Annie was unconscious and barely breathing. A police officer arrived on the scene, but did not have an EpiPen handy.
The 13-year-old died a few days later, due to brain damage from lack of oxygen caused by anaphylaxis, which happens when a body’s immune system overreacts to an allergen. Anaphylaxis may cause hives, shortness of breath, swelling, and other symptoms, and it can be fatal unless treated with epinephrine. This is precisely why LeGere is pushing for legislation in Illinois for first responders and emergency personnel to carry EpiPens with them.
While doctors are still unsure what exactly Annie was allergic to, a person cannot always predict how severely their response to an allergen will be from one time to the next, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Of course, this is exactly why allergies are a parent’s worst nightmare–they’re wholly unpredictable.
“If (epinephrine) had been available, maybe Annie would be with us today,” Shelly LeGere said. According to the CDC, there’s been a 50% growth of food allergy rates between 1997 and 2011, with teenagers most likely to have fatal reactions.
What’s even scarier about this case is the fact that many people may not even be aware that first responders like police, firefighters, and other personnel don’t routinely carry epinephrine, which sounds like a complete missed opportunity to save lives.