New Pennsylvania bill calls for contingency plan to detect life-threatening allergic reactions in children – WPXI
A near-tragedy with his own son has a local state official on a mission to change the law and raise awareness of deadly allergic reactions in children.
State Representative Ryan Warner of R-Westmoreland and Fayette Counties has introduced a new bill to protect young children who have serious allergic reactions called anaphylaxis.
“It’s amazing how many more children are getting food allergies each year. It’s actually quite alarming, ”said State Representative Warner.
An estimated 15.6 million children under the age of 18 have food allergies and many don’t even know it until they have a severe reaction.
This is what happened to Warner’s family, when their then-only 4-year-old son Ben had a fatal reaction to a cashew nut.
Potentially fatal reaction
Ben Warner is a typical kid. He enjoys football, fishing, and Penn State, but also has to deal with a life-threatening nut allergy.
This is something his parents never knew, until one very scary day three years ago, when he was only four years old.
“It was a summer day and my son had picked up a cashew nut,” Warner said, remembering it like it was yesterday. “He was setting having lunch with my wife, and she was eating cashews, and he said ‘Mum, can I have one?'”
His mother told Ben not to, but all it took was picking up a cashew nut – without even eating it – to trigger anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
“Within 10 minutes, his face started to swell and turn red. It was very scary, ”Warner said.
They immediately called an ambulance and rushed him to the hospital. Fortunately, her son’s life was saved. Now, Warner is on a mission to help save the lives of other children by proposing new rules requiring schools and daycares to put in place an emergency response plan.
“What I’m trying to do is expand that, especially in daycare, when the kids are younger and maybe not yet aware (that they have an allergy), and that workers there can identify an anaphylactic reaction because things can go south very quickly, ”he explained.
It is estimated that 1 in 13 children have a food allergy.
Legislation introduced by Warner would require schools and daycares to put in place a plan to train workers on how to respond to and recognize symptoms of anaphylaxis, including:
- change in skin color
- difficult breathing
- swelling of the lips and face.
“If you see these symptoms in a child and you are not aware of what is going on, call 911 immediately,” Warner said.
The new bill is called the law of Elijah. It is modeled after a similar bill in New York state that was passed in 2019, after a 3-year-old boy named Elijah Silvera died of anaphylactic shock at his daycare.
Elijah was severely allergic to dairy products and had a fatal reaction to a grilled cheese sandwich given to him by a worker there. After Elijah went into anaphylaxis, his family were not told what he had eaten and 911 was not called.
Elijah’s parents are now committed to training childcare centers on the dangers of food allergies.
If passed in Pennsylvania, it would be the third state in the country to pass Elijah’s Law, after New York and Illinois.
“I hope this can save a life,” Warner said.
He hopes that Elijah’s law will be voted on in the Pennsylvania state legislature sometime next year.