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Girl dies of food allergy at school

A 13-year-old Chicago Public School student died Friday after she suffered a severe allergic reaction to food she ate at her Northwest Side school.

Katelyn Carlson, 13, was hospitalized just after 1:30 p.m. Friday after she suffered an allergic reaction to food on the 4900 block of North Sawyer Avenue, officials from the Chicago Fire Department and Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said.

Carlson was a student at Thomas A. Edison Regional Gifted Center, which is located at that address, according to CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond and an online directory.

Emergency crews initially took the girl to Swedish Covenant Hospital in serious-to-critical condition, a fire department spokesman said. However, she was later transferred to Children’s Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 5:40 p.m., according to the medical examiner’s office.

A Saturday autopsy found that Carlson, of the 6100 block of North Karlov Avenue, died from anaphylaxis (also known as a severe allergic reaction) to a food allergy, according to the medical examiner’s office. She reportedly had a peanut allergy, police said, and the autopsy ruled her death an accident.

Crisis counselors have been dispatched to the school while officials continue to investigate her death, Bond said in an e-mail Tuesday.

Bond said the district has no formal policy on the use of EpiPens, emergency injections used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. When an allergy-related medical emergency arises, school district staff rely on 504 plans -- individual student health profiles that contain information about a student’s vulnerabilities and risks -- in deciding how to respond, she said.

Carlson’s death comes less than a month before all Illinois schools are required to implement food-allergy policies based on guidelines developed and released by the state Board of Education, in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health, according to the the board’s website.

The 78-page document recommends specific food allergy-related guidelines for schools to follow when creating policies on everything from classroom parties to food service and emergency situations. Each school board is required to implement a policy based on the guidelines by January 1, according to the board’s website.

CPS has already been working on a policy that addresses food allergies as required by the guidelines, Bond said.

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