Peanut allergies can be deadly, yet Children's Mercy Allergy Clinics will allow people to eat peanuts and peanut products in their waiting area while seated next to children who have a life-threatening allergy to them.
My two-year-old son has several food allergies, and, according to Children's Mercy's doctors, is at high risk for severe and life threatening reactions. Yet, despite these risks, they have refused to make their waiting areas safe for children with this type of disability.
Children’s Mercy Allergy Clinic is for children. Young children, like mine, cannot manage their allergy problems. They do not know how dangerous it is to put their hands in their mouth, fingers in their nose, or rub their eyes after touching food contaminated surfaces. Doing these things can introduce food allergens into their system and cause a potentially life threatening reaction.
Children’s Mercy waiting areas are designed to entertain children. They encourage touching by providing play tables, books, crayons, and wall activity centers. Children are allowed to eat anything, including peanut products, and touch these surfaces leaving traces of dangerous allergens behind. My son wants to touch these surfaces, too. He’s only two, the same age as many other allergy patients, and does not understand the danger.
The medical and research advisors for Food Allergy Research & Education agree with my concerns. Their website states, “Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies... Trace amounts of peanut can cause an allergic reaction…Casual contact becomes a concern if the area that comes into contact with peanuts then comes into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth (for example, a child with peanut allergy gets peanut butter on her fingers, and then rubs her eyes).”
I spoke with Children’s Mercy’s division director of allergy, Dr. Jay Portnoy, about making his waiting area safe for food allergic children. I asked him to ban all food, have people eat in the cafeteria, or at least ban peanuts. (Milk, eggs, and peanuts are the most common cause of anaphylactic shock in children.)
Dr. Portnoy refused. I was told that it would be “inconvenient” for patients who have a long wait, and because he doesn't think anyone has gone into anaphylactic shock from being in the proximity of food allergens.
Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic response that is marked by swelling, hives, lowered blood pressure, and dilated blood vessels. In severe cases, a person will go into shock. If anaphylactic shock isn't treated immediately, it can be fatal.
Anaphylaxis may begin with severe itching of the eyes or face and, within minutes, progress to more serious symptoms. These symptoms include swallowing and breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and angioedema (swelling similar to hives, but the swelling is beneath the skin instead of on the surface).
The condition can quickly result in an increased heart rate, sudden weakness, a drop in blood pressure, shock, and ultimately unconsciousness and death.
Anyone with a life threatening food allergy knows the dangers of sitting next to someone who opens a bag of peanuts, trail mix, or peanut butter crackers. Any surface that person touches becomes a danger, not to mention the dangers of dust from a bag of peanuts becoming airborne.
In addition to the extreme discomforts and health risks, allowing food allergic children to be exposed to their allergens prior to testing can jeopardize tests results, causing false positives and unnecessary rescheduling.
Children's Mercy has the power to ban ALL foods from the Allergy Clinic waiting area; create a separate, food-free space for allergy patients; and, in the least, ban peanut products. Providing the highest level of care should apply to ALL of their patients.
I know Change.org has helped others make changes for the better. I hope it works for these children, too.
When a child goes into shock from allergen contact in the Children’s Mercy Allergy Clinic waiting area, they might reconsider making it a safe place for ALL children to wait.
Let’s put the children’s well being first and not let it get that far. Help me start making a change for the better by getting peanuts and peanut products banned from the Children’s Mercy Allergy Clinic waiting areas before a child ends up in the emergency room.