Grey's Anatomy Highlights Peanut Allergy Reaction

Statement by the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation and Matthew Greenhawt, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.P.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa., Feb. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- This statement is in response to the February 9th episode of Grey's Anatomy which featured a storyline regarding a young child suffering a peanut allergy reaction from an accidental ingestion. With millions of children now affected by food allergy, and peanut allergy affecting 1-2% of all children, food allergy reactions are an important topic to feature in a prime time series to raise awareness about this serious issue.  We applaud the shows' producers for featuring such a timely and relevant topic of high importance to the food allergic community, and appreciate how realistic the scene was in demonstrating the severity of an anaphylactic reaction.  

In Grey's dramatization of a peanut-induced allergic reaction, a little girl presented with difficulty breathing and a rash, consistent with anaphylactic shock after accidentally ingesting a peanut candy offered by her boyfriend.  The portrayal provides a good opportunity for learning for both food allergic and non-food allergic families. The following are key points to clarify based on the portrayal of a peanut-induced allergic reaction in school:

  • Children with food allergies should not accept or be offered foods without verifying that the ingredients are safe.  No one wants to purposely give a potentially deadly allergen to another child.  Unfortunately, such accidents happen commonly.  Tragically, the recent death of a 7 year old girl in Virginia eerily resembles this scenario, but with a much worse outcome.
  • Don't place blame – instead reach out and educate the entire school community about the need to keep children with food allergies safe in the school setting. We need to work together as a community to help everyone understand the risks of food allergy to affected children. As adults, we need to set positive examples for our children in understanding our perspectives, while at the same time, finding ways to effectively manage food allergies in the school setting.
  • Epinephrine is the first line of treatment for a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.  The severity of the reaction in the scene, which resulted in the girl being intubated because she could not breathe despite treatment represents a rare but possible outcome.  Most anaphylactic reactions, if appropriately treated, do not progress to requiring intubation. In such situations, where there is a witnessed or highly suspected allergic reaction resulting in multiple organ involvement (skin and respiratory in this case), epinephrine is the primary treatment of choice.  Antihistamines are only to be used as a primary treatment when the reaction is milder, such as having only hives or other skin rashes, and isolated swelling of a body part not affecting the ability to breathe. Asthma medications such as albuterol are never first line agents for treatment of an allergic reaction—if respiratory symptoms are involved, epinephrine becomes the first line treatment.  However, the fact that the girl in the scene did not immediately receive epinephrine is a very realistic mistake that occurs frequently, and should serve to highlight the fact that further community awareness is needed to teach people how to recognize and appropriately treat an allergic reaction.


If you are a parent of a food allergic child, talk with your child about not sharing food, and continue to work with the school to make sure there is an emergency action plan and an epinephrine device available in case of emergency.  If you are the parent of a child without a food allergy, talk to your child about the dangers that a food allergy can pose.  Chances are at least one child in your child's class has a food allergy.  Teach them to have empathy for these children, to not share food with them, and, most importantly, to be their friend.  Helping food allergic children at school is a shared responsibility.

About the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation (KFA)

Founded in 2005 as a charity, KFA is a growing national nonprofit organization of 28,000 individuals, families and businesses. KFA's program offerings are focused on educating families and communities about practical food allergy management to save children's lives and improve the quality of life for children and their families. Its interactive website provides a powerhouse of resources, including the nation's largest online support community offering moral support, information sharing and food/cooking support; quality education materials edited by a multidisciplinary medical advisory team; and an online collection of 1,200 "allergy-friendly" recipes. The recent, unprecedented rise in food allergies has spurred the organization's rapid growth. To find out more, go to:

About Matthew Greenhawt, M.D., M.B.A.

Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MBA, is a board certified Pediatrician and Allergist, and is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School and University of Michigan Health System.  He specializes in research and treatment of food allergy and eosinophilic esophagitis and is a member of the medical advisory board for Kids With Food Allergies Foundation.

Media Contact: Lynda Mitchell Kids With Food Allergies Foundation, 215-230-5394,

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SOURCE Kids With Food Allergies Foundation



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