The Allergy Factor

By Robin L. Flanigan

Jacqui Corba was in fifth grade when she was sent to the hospital after a student at another table in the cafeteria opened a bag of peanuts. Just being close to the peanuts prompted an allergic reaction that made it hard for Jacqui to breathe. After the incident, administrators confined her to a classroom at lunchtime -- allowing her to invite a friend -- for the rest of the 2000-01 school year.

“They were just being extra careful,” the 16-year-old from Greenwich, Conn., now acknowledges, “but I hated it.”

Things got better in middle school when, at her mother’s request, all sixth-graders watched a video about food allergies and Jacqui ate in a corner of the cafeteria designated as a nut-free zone. These days she is a sophomore, and every staff member at her Greenwich High School has been trained to inject a life-saving medicine called epinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline) during an allergy-related emergency to open up airways and blood vessels.

School officials in Greenwich know it just makes sense to be prepared in case Jacqui -- or another student -- suffers a serious allergic reaction. Districts elsewhere, as well, are looking for ways to prevent such reactions and handle them if they occur.

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