For many children and teens, food allergies are a matter of life or death. But Susan Tatelli, a 13-year-old Girl Scout Cadette from Highland Park, Illinois, refuses to let her peanut allergy define her.
As part of her Girl Scout Silver Award project, Susan created a video showing her self-administering epinephrine, a medication used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, during one of her anaphylactic reactions.
“I think it’s super exciting and incredible,” said Susan of the response her video has received so far. “I’ve gotten thank-you notes and emails from people all over saying their kids had anxiety about their allergies and the video has helped them. Parents say it helps them feel safer about their kids. I’m really happy and glad that it’s helping people. I think it’s great.”
Recently, Susan completed an 18-month enrollment in a clinical trail at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, which used oral immunotherapy to help combat her severe peanut allergy. Although not 100-percent cured, Susan is now able to enjoy activities such as going to the movies and flying on a plane without fear of an allergic reaction from being in close proximity to a peanut product.
On Sunday, May 15, Susan was a guest speaker at the 2016 Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) National Food Allergy Conference in Orlando, Florida where she shared her experience with anaphylaxis from a teen’s perspective.
“Learning to self-administer epinephrine is especially important with teens because they do stuff without their parents with them,” she explained. “If you’re somewhere having a reaction and your parents aren’t there, you have to know how to do it and take responsibility for it.”
In addition to the video for her Silver Award project, Susan has increased awareness about food allergies by hosting epinephrine readiness workshops at local troop meetings and conducting an EpiPen training session at her 13th birthday party.
“It’s important for teens to teach your friends how to administer an EpiPen so if you’re around them and have a reaction, they know what to do. I recommend injecting an orange with an expired EpiPen for practice,” she suggested. “Teach them about your allergy so they can help keep you safe.”