Valentine Jenschke and her daughter, Jenna, 7, play
with their cat at home in Marietta, Georgia, on July
10, 2013. Jenna suffers from food allergies that can
be fatal so the family must be careful with what she
— Within five minutes of popping a chocolate nut cluster
in her mouth one day last year, Kristen Valentine Jenschke’s
daughter was in a fight for her life.
throat and mouth itched. Her eyelids swelled. Red blotchy
spots covered her face. By the time Jenschke figured out
Jenna had eaten candy from a grocery store sampling station
and rushed her to a nearby children’s clinic, the girl was
struggling to breathe.
staff at Children’s Healthcare was phenomenal, and they
realized immediately what was happening," the Marietta,
Ga., mother said.
growing number of children, the then-6-year-old was having
an allergic reaction to nuts.
many as one in 13 U.S. children suffers from a food allergy,
a common cause of anaphylaxis. For some, the allergic
reaction will prove fatal.
part of the national Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis initiative
sponsored by global pharmaceutical company Mylan Specialty
L.P., local school districts are lining up to participate in
some friendly competition to help raise awareness of severe
allergies by rallying people to share their personal
competition, dubbed "Raise Your Hand for Anaphylaxis
Awareness," runs through Oct. 1 and allows people to
virtually "raise their hand" for their school
district to be counted as one committed to educating people
about the dangers of severe allergies. Supporters can
register their school district online at .
The competition launched in May.
school districts with the most raised hands will each
receive a $15,000 grant to support educational programs,
including anaphylaxis-related activities.
didn’t know that her daughter, now 7, had a
life-threatening allergy until that day in late December.
experience, experts say, points up the need for parents and
people who work with children to be able to recognize the
signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and know what to do if it
especially true for personnel at schools, where children
spend a great majority of their time, said Dr. Stanley M.
Fineman, an Atlanta allergy and asthma specialist and
advocate for "Raise Your Hand." Fineman said food
allergies among children are increasing.
while the reasons are unclear, he said factors such as
increased awareness, improved diagnostics and possibly the
general increase in prevalence of allergic disease all play
is a theory that early exposure to foods may induce
tolerance, and in recent years, it has been common practice
to delay introduction of certain ‘allergenic’ foods such
as eggs and nuts," Fineman said.
said parents can protect their children by making sure they
get a proper diagnosis but cautioned that "no one test
is recommended as a stand-alone tool."
the potential trigger is identified, then appropriate
precautions are needed, and the parent and patient need to
be educated about avoidance measures and treatment,"
an epinephrine auto-injector available at all times is
critical," he explained, "since that is the
recommended first line treatment for patients having
anaphylactic reactions." Fineman said about 2 percent
of the population will experience anaphylaxis, but there
have been as many as 1,500 deaths each year from
life-threatening allergic reactions nationally.
hypotension (low blood pressure) or shock can occur, typical
symptoms include skin rash, breathing difficulty, tightness
in throat and swelling, Fineman said.
said one of the benefits of the "Raise Your Hand"
initiative is it will help inform the public about the risks
and dangers of anaphylaxis, which is frequently
misunderstood or mishandled — resulting in potentially
life-threatening consequences for patients at risk.
said she learned her daughter’s diagnosis the hard way.
remember passing the sampling stations, but I did not know
that Jenna had eaten anything," Jenschke recalled.
"Within five minutes of passing the sampling stations,
she complained that her mouth and throat were itchy. I gave
her a drink of my tea and didn’t think anything of
it." When that didn’t help, Jenschke said she spotted
a napkin in the shopping cart and asked Jenna what she had
eaten. She bought Benadryl then headed to the nearest urgent
care clinic. No luck.
did not treat allergic reactions in children, but they
referred me to a Children’s Healthcare facility
nearby," Jenschke said.
doctors got her symptoms under control, Jenschke said they
were allowed to go home with a handful of prescriptions,
including an epinephrine auto-injector and orders for
allergy testing as soon as possible.
after, she said, Fineman told her Jenna was allergic to tree
had a compulsory crash course in allergy awareness,"
she said. "I don’t wish that on any parent."
YOU CAN HELP
to raise anaphylaxis awareness by supporting the Raise Your
to show support for your school district, then select your
district from a drop-down menu or type in the name to search
for it. All public school districts in the U.S. are
eligible. You also can share your personal reasons for
raising your hand. The four school districts with the most
hands raised at the end of the competition will each win a
the word: Let others in your school community know about the
competition and why you raised your hand by emailing,
sharing on Facebook and tweeting. Also visit the
Anaphylaxis101 Resource Library or take a Guided Tour to
download resources, customized school forms, checklists and
back often: Increase your district’s chance of winning by
raising your hand once a day. By registering on