Going Nuts? An Open Letter to the Upper School

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Emilio Alvarez Most people are aware of Latin buckling down on their policy of no out-of-school foods, but many people don’t know that I had an allergic reaction with peanuts prior to this policy. This February, I had an allergic reaction at lunch to a sandwich that had been cross-contaminated with peanuts. I recall the early lunch of that day; in honor of the Chinese Lunar New Year, various treats were brought to Latin. I entered the cafeteria, gaping at the extensive lunch lines, and instantly my eyes were drawn to the end of the salad bar where a batch of pork sandwiches waited to be taken. I immediately opted for the sandwiches since they looked amazing, probably twice as good after I realized they were free of charge. I suspended my glare at the sandwiches to check the time, which read 11:48 AM. I was three minutes late to my Health and Wellness class, so I instinctively forgot the sandwiches and hurried upstairs. It was difficult to pay full attention in class, as the rumbling of my stomach selfishly drowned out surrounding noise. My mind wandered from the teacher’s presentation and cut to a daydream of the pork sandwich. This is what I get for my ability (more accurately my lack thereof) to keep track of time. I had slept in thirty minutes late that day, so I skipped breakfast as well. Slowly, my eyes aimlessly gravitated towards the window, then down into the shells of my eyelids, ready for a long midday nap. In the midst of my shutdown routine, my eyes stumbled upon the hands of my friend who, looking substantially pleased, was indulging in the very pork sandwich for which I had longed so dearly. I believe that my stomach took full control over my mind at that moment and formulated the command, “Give it now.” My friend, startled by the nature of the command surrendered the sandwich and the bag of chips, probably fearful that the sandwich wouldn’t be enough to please me. Within seconds of the first bite, I felt the oncoming symptoms. My throat muscles became tighter by the minute, and I struggled to sustain a cycle of deep breaths. The weight of my eyelids seemed to double, but there was no visible swelling. The walk to the nurse went by extremely slowly, and the symptoms came in intervals. I vividly recall skipping every other stair while descending to the 2nd floor as if nothing was wrong. As I had reached the 2nd floor, the light from the windows had triggered a fierce headache and nausea. I had to shuffle to a seat and sit there for a few minutes to recover. Various symptoms came on-and-off for no longer than 5 minutes at a time, and this cycle persevered until I used an Epipen. An ambulance took me to the Lurie Children’s Hospital. My 4 hour stay in the ER felt more like 8, as the Benadryl had made me drowsy, but not enough to disregard the soreness in my leg where I had inserted the EpiPen. Luckily this was only a minor reaction, and I recovered in time to go to school the next day. There are roughly 6 million children across the U.S. with a food allergy; 1 in 13 children under the age of 18. The total cost of an allergic reaction can be extremely high. A short ride in the ambulance alone can amount to $2,000, not to mention the ER bill and the cost of EpiPens roughly add up to the same amount. It can be difficult for families who do not have insurance to cover these expenditures, which is why it is important to ensure safety for the students at Latin. I’m one of many students at Latin who has a food allergy, and whenever food from outside of school is brought in, people with allergies are put at risk. I understand that some of may feel inconvenienced and frustrated with this new food policy; some foods, you may think wouldn’t even be dangerous to kids with allergies. And that’s why I intend this article to be more of a personal experience and thank-you note rather than a fact-filled report. On behalf of the people who have food allergies, thank you for your cooperation, and outside of school, feel free to go nuts!]]>