Packing lunch for the first day of first grade can be nerve-racking for any mother, but Karen Lee has more reasons to worry than most. Karen's son Adam has severe life-threatening allergies.
"He is in the highest risk category for an anaphylactic reaction due to the fact that he has eczema, he has asthma and he has the allergy to peanuts," Lee said.
Adam's allergies are so bad, in fact, even smelling peanuts can trigger a dangerous reaction. As a result Karen sent an EpiPen like this one to school. It's a syringe, filled with the medicine epinephrine to treat allergic reaction which can turn deadly, quickly
"In this country there are about 100 to 150 people every year who actually die from a food allergy reaction," said Dr. D.J. Scherzer, with Nationwide Children's Hospital.
In an effort to lower those numbers, Dr. Scherzer developed an innovative program at Nationwide Children's Hospital that teaches school staffers how and when to use EpiPens. Each year, thousands of kids suffer severe reactions at school, and many adults are unable or unsure how to help.
"Approximately half of those people actually had epinephrine in the vicinity, it was available to them, it just wasn't used or it wasn't used in time," said Dr. Scherzer.
Scherzer, who is also with the Ohio State University says EpiPens may go unused in emergencies because they can be intimidating, especially if an adult has to inject a child. But it's an idea that gets a lot easier with just a little practice. "Just a few minutes of getting a feel of it, talking about it a little bit, just looking at it, can help you get over that hesitancy," he said.
And can help protect kids like Adam from dangers they may never see coming.
Dr. Scherzer says nurses aren't always present in all schools, so other staff members should be trained to use them - especially since food allergies are on the rise.
If you'd like to learn more about EpiPens and see a demonstration, head to www.NationwideChildrens.org/EpiPen.