January 31, 2013

The peanut butter battle

Mother sets out to educate community

By Christopher Smith

— Baseball games, carnivals and potlucks will probably not be a part of 6-year old Harper Sane’s life.

That’s because Harper, who lives in Chatsworth, has a peanut allergy, and even contact through the air with peanut particles can cause her to go into anaphylaxis shock. It’s something that was discovered after she touched a peanut butter cracker when she was 11 months old. Now, any nearby presence of peanuts can threaten her life, Julie Sane, Harper’s mother, said.

“We had no history of this in our family,” Sane said. “The tiniest bit of peanut butter could cause an allergic reaction and trigger anaphylaxis.”

That’s why Sane carries an epinephrine pen with her at all times; that’s why she is working to increase peanut allergy awareness in the community.

Sane visited the Dalton-Whitfield County Library Wednesday afternoon to talk to children and parents during story time about the threat of peanut allergies, taking the onus on herself to educate residents after she couldn't find local resources for peanut allergies, she said.

“I turned to our local library for literary resources such as adult and children’s books or even for a DVD,” she said. “I was disappointed to learn that the Dalton library only has one book geared toward nut allergies.”

Through contributions from Modern Woodmen of America, Sane donated three children’s books, one book for adults and an educational DVD on peanut allergies.

“Books are what comforts Harper when she’s scared or feeling different and alone,” Sane said. “That’s how I reassure her.”

The donations are a start to making sure everyone in the area is proactive about food allergies, but contributions from parents are “very rare,” said Karol Radovich, the library’s children services coordinator. The donations are an even bigger start since Harper’s allergist, Dr. Rusty Walker with the Allergy & Asthma Group, is matching Sane’s contribution with funds to buy a few more food-allergy awareness resources.

“What they’ve done is over and beyond,” Radovich said. “It’s such a nice gesture to help us out in this way, to help us educate our community.”

As many as 15 million Americans have food allergies, resulting in 300,000 emergencies in 2012, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common allergy? Peanuts. And unless the allergy is treated within minutes, the chance of death is possible.

The scary part for Julie Sane is how often allergies are under the radar.

“This impacts your whole life,” she said. “Cheese, breads, potting soil, sunscreen, shampoo, candy corn, kidney beans. Peanut is in everything.”

That’s why Sane decided to home school her daughter.

“There are some schools in the community who say they’re nut-free, but you can never be too sure. Kids bring things into school all the time. I feel like those in charge of our kids (principals, teachers) are not always educated enough to prevent it, but some schools are great ... this isn’t the path we wanted, but it will keep her safe.”

For parents who are discovering the food allergy world, Sane says they can get more information from the No Nuts Moms Group (nonutsmomsgroup.weebly.com).

“It’s a virtual community and I’m a leader for the Dalton area,” she said. “We try to educate each other. We’re not doctors, but we’ve got the experiences, we live with it, we know the challenges.”