Childhood food allergies cost US billions - FOX Carolina 21

Childhood food allergies cost US billions

Posted: Updated: Sep 17, 2013 11:33 PM
Those who have allergies use epinephrine injectors (Courtesy: FOX Carolina) Those who have allergies use epinephrine injectors (Courtesy: FOX Carolina)

Three days a week, you can find 12-year-old Griffin Krieg on a soccer field in Greenville.

"I'm just a pretty competitive person," Griffin said.

And like a good player, he always packs his cleats and his EpiPen, or what's known as an epinephrine auto-injector.

"So, it's always good to have it," Griffin said.

That's because four years ago, he ate some pistachios and had a severe allergic reaction.

"I was pretty scared. Like, it's really hard to breathe," Griffin said.

It scared his mother, Penny Krieg, too.

"Just panic, um just panic," Penny Krieg said.

So she keeps an eye on him, but is relieved Griffin now knows what to do.

"He remembers that and he is so careful with whatever he eats at school. There has to be more of an awareness of it, especially since the numbers keep climbing," Penny Krieg said.

A recent study shows childhood food allergies cost the country about $25 billion a year in medical fees and other family expenses.

"The more dangerous ones are peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish," Dr. Emmanuel Sarmiento said.

He's an allergist with the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville. He said there are three brands of epinephrine injectors which are used when those who are allergic go into anaphylactic shock. Some symptoms include breaking out in hives and trouble breathing.

"It has to be ingested or really in contact with mucus membrane for something to really get into your system," Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento said children are often misdiagnosed, so it's important to contact a pediatrician first to be confirmed to see an allergist.

Recently, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill which now allows schools throughout the state to have epinephrine injectors on site. Before the law, school administrators or teachers were not allowed to use epinephrine injectors unless they were prescribed.

"It's a life-saving measure and at the same time it will save us money in the long run," Sarmiento said.

State Rep. Joshua Putnam, R- Dist. 10, wrote the bill that's now law. He said schools can now have access to four free EpiPens a year through a national program. 

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