Allergies Are Not Taken Seriously Enough

Claire Sophie Malinka-Thompson, Staff Writer

Walking into class on the first day of school is a nerve-racking experience for most students. For me, it can even be a scene out of a horror movie. As someone with a life-threatening allergy, there is always a hazard that I will be exposed to a food with the power to send me to the hospital.

Due to my allergy being airborne, I must inform my teacher of my situation in case of exposure. Back in August, when I walked into my first class of the school year, I was faced with the most frustrating and frightening reaction. I was told by my teacher that if I was exposed to my allergen and had to leave the classroom, my grade would suffer. In other words, my teacher would rather me go into anaphylactic shock, than miss any of their class. They followed this statement by saying that anyone could eat anything in the classroom. Needless to say, I immediately transferred out of this class so as to not face any experiences that would send me to the hospital.

This is something that many students face all over the district. Allergies are often seen as insignificant or something that a person may be exaggerating about, opposed to a medical risk that should be taken seriously. Many people don’t understand the severity of some conditions, such as my own and rather assume than ask. This is not something that students should have to deal with.

I often find myself hiding the fact that I have an allergy, because I become anxious that people will say something insensitive or judge me. Those who are diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy are always on edge in case something happens.

“It makes kids feel different,” Maja Onda, a parent of a child with a severe peanut allergy, said. “I mean we always feel different for different reasons, but if you are constantly worried about if you’re going to have an exposure, then it heightens your anxiety. It’s not just a stuffy nose or sneezing. This could actually lead to my child’s death.”

Parents of students with allergies are faced with tough decisions such as: Should I send my child to school? Should I allow my child to participate in school field trips? There will always be a trust issue involved with the person who oversees their child in certain situations.

Some places and people possess a unwillingness to accommodate those with certain needs.  This is how individuals with allergies become embarrassed or even humiliated to bring up the topic. Why bring it up, if you are only going to be judged?

“I’m sometimes worried that people might criticize my allergy because it makes it more difficult for them,” Kaemon Andreou-White said. “A couple of times I felt awkward saying that I have an allergy because people don’t understand it.”

While anxieties form due to the allergy itself and being constantly vigilant, one of the hardest parts about living with an allergy is managing yourself in social settings. Those with allergies are often singled out as the person to avoid, because it is easier to walk away and do whatever you want than it is to accommodate those who need it. Some schools even have those with allergies sit in a separate area of the cafeteria, physically singling them out, opening the door for bullying. Schools should teach their students to be inclusive and accommodating, not teaching them to push others to the side.

The district is required to train their teachers to use an EpiPen, however that is when the training ends. The training is given to at least a hundred teachers at a time, so it is incredibly hard to obtain any of the information.

“Don’t assume you know what it’s like to live with a potentially life-threatening allergy,” Peter Moskowitz, a local pediatrician said. “It takes quite a bit of mental effort to avoid what you know may cause serious harm. It’s not fun living in fear. Be respectful and inclusive.”

It is of the utmost importance that in our society we approach every issue with sensitivity and willingness to adjust. Allergies may seem like something minor that doesn’t affect you, but it is crucial that everyone takes the steps in order to better protect those in our community that need it.