by Kelley Lindberg
If I could have one wish granted for this blog, it would be
that I’d never have to write about another child dying because of a food
But that wish hasn’t come true yet.
Last week, 11-year-old Tanner Henstra in St. George, Utah,
died after accidentally popping a peanut-butter-filled pretzel into his mouth
at a friend’s house. Although he immediately realized his mistake and spit it
out, it was too late.
The family had been vigilant about his food allergy his
whole life. The boy was educated about his allergy and ordinarily very careful.
The mother is a nurse. The boy usually carried epinephrine, but for some reason
didn’t have it that day.
It was just one of those momentary accidents that could
happen to any of us. Within minutes, his throat and tongue had swelled, cutting
off his airway, and by the time medical assistance arrived, it was too late.
The Salt Lake Tribune
has an article with more information about the tragedy (“Utah Boy’s Death Highlights Food Allergy Vigilance,” Salt
Lake Tribune, April 26, 2013).
The article includes a quote from Michelle Fogg, president of the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN),
who explains why teenagers make up the majority of all food-allergy fatalities:
“Teenagers are bigger risk-takers and less vigilant. They get busy, it’s not
cool to carry [epinephrine] around. They just get caught without it.”
A single moment of inattention, combined with a forgotten
EpiPen, spelled disaster for this family. If you have a child who is getting to
the age where he or she is becoming shy about carrying their epinephrine, or rebellious
about avoiding the food their friends are eating, or just flat-out sick of
being deprived of “normal” treats, you may want to have them read the article
about Tanner Henstra, so they can see just how quickly a single accident can
turn deadly. If you’re not sure whether you should talk to your younger child
about this, Michelle Fogg suggests this helpful website for “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event” on the
government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
The boy’s heartbroken mother has one message for food
allergic kids and their families: “Never let your guard down.”
A Tanner Henstra Memorial Fund has been set up to help the family with
funeral and medical expenses, if you'd like to offer your support. UFAN has generously donated to the fund, so more
thanks go to Michelle and all the folks at UFAN for being a strong
supporter of our food allergy community. And we all send our heartfelt thoughts to the Henstra family.