A Texas middle school student died Monday from a reaction to fire ant bites, adding to an ongoing discussion about schools having EpiPens more available — not just for students with known allergies.
Cameron Espinoza, an eight-grade football player at Haas Middle School in Corpus Christi, screamed “Ants! Ants!” the school district’s Director of Communications Lorette Williams told the New York Daily News of the incident that occurred at a game on September 11.
“The coach said ‘get a water bottle and spray yourself off.’ So that’s what he was doing. But then, as coach kept talking and trying to lead the team, that’s when he started with the grimacing and like yelling out in pain. It was obvious he was in pain,” Principal Lynda Ann De Leon told KZTV-TV.
KIII-TV reported that officials inspect the field every time before students are on it.
“Oh my God, Michael. You can’t tell me they didn’t see them,” school district board member Lucy Rubio told a KIII reporter after she looked at the fields and saw mounds a day after the incident last week.
Another school board member was upset as well.
“It really bothers me because here we got a young kid that is fighting for his life and… I don’t know… Could this have been prevented?” Salinas told KRIS-TV, also noting that if officials knew it was a problem with the field before, it should have been addressed better in the first place.
A few days after being bitten and having a reaction, 13-year-old Espinoza died. His funeral is being held Thursday.
Parents are now nervous about letting their children play on the field and the incident has sparked a discussion over whether schools should stock epinephrine for such unexpected reactions. Some schools that previously only had the allergy treatment on hand for students with known allergies are beginning to carry it just in case, especially for students who might not know they’re allergic.
Espinosa’s parents, for example, did not know about his allergy to the ants.
Wesley Stafford, an allergy specialist, told KIII that the state last year passed a law allowing school nurses to carry EpiPens.
“In the past, kids who had allergies have had EpiPens at school so that the adrenaline could be given to them if they got a bee sting or if they accidentally ate a peanut, or if they were having a systemic allergic reaction from anything,” Stafford said. “But the problem in the past has been, if you have a reaction to a peanut for the first time, the odds are pretty good it’s going to be at school, and you don’t even know you have the allergy; or, if you get stung and have your first reaction at school, they have to have some way of treating that as quickly as they can.”
The Today Show noted that Espinosa’s death came a week after the U.S. Sentate introduced a bill that would require schools to have epinephrine on hand for such reactions. Here’s more of a national look at the issue from Today:
Even though staff at schools in 30 states, including Texas, are allowed to inject an EpiPen in students even if they do not have a prescription for it, only four of those states — Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska and Nevada –require schools to stock it.
Allergists say Cameron’s death highlights the importance of making epinephrine available to all students in schools across the country. Because, they say, Cameron’s mother is right – an EpiPen injection almost certainly would have saved the boy’s life.
“It’s very unfortunate that this happened. Why? Because this could have been avoided if there was access to the EpiPen,” says Dr. Talal Nsouli, a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Ninety-nine percent of these patients’ lives are saved when the EpiPen is used at the right time and the right place.”
Superintendent Scott Elliff told KRIS-TV the district is not only considering proposals to carry emergency treatment for allergies but also to have an ambulance and/or EMS at football games.
Watch Elliff’s statement in Wednesday’s press conference:
Espinosa’s mother, Josephine Limon, told the local news station in a separate report, that her “son was an amazing boy.” She has hired an attorney.
Listen to the mother speak about her son’s tragic death:
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.