First year Queen's University student Andrea Mariano died from an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, according to her family; she was just 18 years-old. It's frightening to think that an allergic reaction can wipe out a life so quickly. We think that once our kids are out of primary school, they're safer. We hope they're able to protect themselves, to advocate for themselves and communicate their allergies to those handling their foods. But they can't always protect themselves. Sometimes mistakes happen, and when they do, they can cost a precious life. My sincerest condolences to Ms. Mariano's family, I cannot fathom the sadness they're feeling right now.
Fatalities from anaphylaxis are not common, but youth are at the highest risk. They often go without life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors, meaning that precious moments go by without the needed medication.
In the wake of this unfortunate loss, universities across Canada are re-evaluating and strengthening their food allergy practices. According to a Global News piece, a number of universities have called meetings with staff involved in all aspects of food handling and hospitality to ensure safe procedures are in place.
Quoted in the Global News piece, the director of Food Allergy Canada said students must be their own advocates, but this requires support from food providers as well. This means all staff must be trained on how to limit potential exposures, and what to do in case of an emergency.
Andrea Mariano's family and friends will say their final goodbyes to her this week, and my heart is with them all. I'm just so sorry for their immense loss.