Schools & Families Deal with Rising Number of Kids with Food Allergies

By Jill Kasparie, KCRG-TV9

LINN COUNTY, Iowa — Every three minutes a serious food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room.

That’s according to the organization FARE, or Food Allergy Research and Education.

Studies show food allergies are impacting more and more children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The prevalence of food allergies among children increased 18% during 1997—2007.

The Chamberlain family knows the dangers of food allergies all too well. They had quite the scare a couple months ago.

Westin Chamberlain is your average 12-year-old, looking forward to starting 7th grade.

“I like science a lot,” Westin Chamberlain said.

He’s happy and healthy, but at the end of May he looked very different. Pictures show a scratched chest and a pale boy in a hospital bed.

It happened after he ate five peanuts at school. His EpiPen was nowhere in sight.

“They were like honey roasted and I didn’t think that I was that allergic. So, I just took one and it was good, so I ate like two more and then two more,” Westin Chamberlain said.

“He was ambulated down to St. Luke’s and they intubated him there. He was on a ventilator ... and they stabilized him there and he was airlifted, life-flighted to the University of Iowa,” said Westin’s Mother Tiffany Chamberlain.

Tiffany said he has several other food allergies. Westin has outgrown some of them and had never had peanuts until that day.

“I mean, for several hours we thought he was going to die,” Tiffany Chamberlain said.

A non-profit called Food Allergy and Research Education said about 18 percent of children with food allergies have a reaction at school.

That has many districts, like Linn-Mar, taking action.

“We do several things. In our buildings we have a peanut free table for students so they can be at a separate table,” said Linn-Mar Executive Director of Student Services Julie Jensen.

The executive director of student services estimates the district spends at least $5,000 a year to make accommodations. She said about 80 students in the district have a food allergy.

“We certainly have seen the food allergy growth, not only just with peanuts or with milk. We have so many different variety of food allergies,” Jensen said.

Westin’s parents plan to meet with the district at the beginning of this year to write out a more-detailed food plan. The soon-to-be 7th grader said he has learned his lesson, and Tiffany hopes more people learned something too.

“It’s something that I think we all know someone or know of someone who has a food allergy or has had an experience with it, so it’s really important for everybody to be educated,” Tiffany Chamberlain said.

If kids come in contact with or eat an allergen, some mild symptoms include a few hives, itchy nose and sneezing. More severe ones include shortness of breath, trouble swallowing or swelling of the lips.

l Comments: 319-398-8268; jill.kasparie@kcrg.com

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