Issaquah student goes into allergic shock from kiwi fruit at school

A student at Issaquah High School went into anaphylactic shock Thursday because the school cafeteria had kiwi on the menu – a fruit to which she is allergic.  And she’s not just allergic to just eating them, but suffers even when exposed to the air surrounding them.

Her parents have asked the school to ban the fruit from its menus, but so far it has not.

The district says it takes allergies very seriously, working with other students who suffer other allergies and is following proper procedures on how to deal with this situation.

Rhiannon Jensen, the student with the allergy, explained what happens to her. “It usually starts out with my chest hurting, and throat getting really itchy. It gets hard to breathe, I get dizzy, my lips start to swell,” she said.

Rhiannon, 17, was diagnosed with the life-threatening allergy to kiwi fruit five years ago.

Her dad, Greg Jensen, said, “I thought it was just odd, she was just allergic to kiwi fruit and nothing else. It`s such an unusual rare exotic fruit, doesn`t come up much.”

Rhiannon said the school cafeteria said, “They tell me the day … when they`re going to serve the kiwis, I stay away as much as possible.”

But that didn’t help her on Thursday.  After she went into shock, paramedics were called and a family member had to inject Rhiannon with an Epinephrine pen.

“At this point, I interpret this as an attack on my daughter,” Jensen said. “They know the consequences, she could have died today, the more you`re exposed to it, it lowers your resistance, it could get worse each time.”

Since the school year started, Rhiannon’s had to leave five times because of an allergic reaction.

 Last year, the family met with school staff to discuss the issue and worked out a health plan based on input from her doctor.

District spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said, “A lot of times, it’s like, how can we make sure the substance does not get around you, because in a school environment there’s just so much you can’t control.”

 The school provides an allergen-free zone and lets her know when kiwi will be served. But the teen’s family said that’s not enough.  They want the school to remove kiwi from the menu.

“My last job was at a peanut-free school,” Jensen said. “It’s not hard, pretty standard.  We were flabbergasted as to why they just didn`t take it off the menu. “

The Issaquah School District said it has never removed any food item from a cafeteria, but it is considering all options.

“We can control so much at our end,” Niegowski said. “But there’s also the possibility of what other students are bringing in, or the staff.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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