HomeOpen letter from Laurie Harada: A word about the recent tragedy at Queen’s University

Open letter from Laurie Harada: A word about the recent tragedy at Queen’s University

October 2, 2015

Our hearts go out to the Mariano family who recently lost their daughter Andrea, due to an anaphylactic reaction she experienced at Queens University (Ontario). Like the Food Allergy Canada team, we know that many of you are thinking of the Mariano family. This story has touched us all.

We know, too, that many of you are worried about your child who may be on the cusp of entering university or college or are already enrolled. As a mother of a son with multiple food allergies (Julian is now in 4th year at UBC), I know how unsettling this can be. It hits close to home.

These past several days, we’ve fielded many calls and emails from people wondering what they can do to make a difference.

Talk to your child
If you have a child with food allergies, you might want to take this as an opportunity to talk to him/her now. Chances are he/she has already heard the news and they may be feeling anxious. Remind your child about what they can do to self-protect – reading food labels, asking about food preparation, and of course, carrying their auto-injector with them. Remind them, too, why it’s so important to tell their friends about their allergies – they can help in an emergency. Encourage them to double-check that they have their auto-injector with them before they eat or drink. Accidents happen despite best efforts – people may only realize they have forgotten their auto-injector when a reaction is starting.

Many parents are asking us: What can I do now?
You can also contact the university or college yourself to ask about their foodservice operations both at residence dining halls and in restaurants and other foodservice outlets on campus that are independently run, such as cafes, delis, etc. For example, you can ask – Are their staff trained in food allergen management? Food Allergy Canada strongly believes that foodservice businesses need to ensure that their staff – both “back of the house” (preparing food) and “front of the house” (serving staff) should be trained.

You can also inquire about their emergency protocol – what happens if a student has an anaphylactic reaction? What is the emergency protocol?

Next Steps
Food Allergy Canada has reached out to Queen’s University to offer our support and discuss possible protocols that could be put in place or strengthened in order to reduce the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. We will be contacting other post-secondary institutions as well.

This sad event raises many questions, especially how tragedies like this can be prevented in the future. It’s a very big issue and can be very difficult to know where to start. However, we know that many of you may have experiences and knowledge that could help with the solution.

To start the dialogue, we would like your feedback:

What can universities and colleges do to help make campus a safer place for students with food allergies?”

We invite you to join the conversation and connect with us today. Food Allergy Canada is here to help. Please visit our youth website, whyriskit.ca, for tools and resources specifically aimed at teens and young adults. Together, we can make a difference.

Yours truly,

Laurie Harada
Executive Director

UPDATE: Thank you so much for all of your comments. Food Allergy Canada has received many thoughtful ideas and comments from parents like yourself. I wanted to give you a brief update – we have reached out to many people (allergists, some universities, students, and others) to discuss ideas. I’d very much like to hear from parents and hope to set up a conference call soon so that we can speak. Stay tuned – Laurie

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