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Epipen awareness

| Friday, October 7, 2016

In the crazy lunchtime rush at South Dining Hall, I decided to skip the lines and make myself a sandwich. When I walked around to the panini grill station, I witnessed a shocking sight: the girl in front of me placed her peanut butter and banana sandwich — I never understood that combo in the first place, but that is a different story — on the panini press.

When she lifted the press after crisping her sandwich, the heated peanut butter had oozed all over the grill, leaving a deadly mess. She proceeded to take the tongs and try to scrape the oozing peanut butter off of the panini press but, after great failure, just gave up and left.

In complete shock, my eyes darted to my turkey sandwich that I was about to place on the panini press. As a student with a serious peanut allergy, I decided it was a good day for a cold sandwich.

As I walked back to my seat all I could think was, “What if I hadn’t seen this occur and I used that one instead? If I were to have an allergic reaction right now in the dining hall, would anyone know how to help me?”

A recent study discovered that approximately 1 in 5 people with allergies carry an Epipen with them at all times. I wish I could say I fall into that 20 percent, but I do not. I know it is scary and irresponsible on my part — my parents aren’t too happy with me — but my Epipen is very inconvenient to carry and sometimes, I forget to grab it.

In the 15 years I have had my allergy, I have never had to use my Epipen, so I figure I won’t need it. This is the mindset of many people with allergies — even though some may view this as irresponsible, it is the reality.

I am a design major, and a lot of my research revolves around studying the user and the reality of how people live. Instead of just telling people to carry their Epipens more often, the designer’s approach would be to ask what is wrong with the current Epipen and how can we improve it so it is more appealing to people with allergies.

In the U.S., approximately 200 people die every year due to anaphylaxis. This number frustrates me, because anaphylaxis is completely treatable with the right equipment. It is guaranteed that if those 200 people had an Epipen on them in the moment, they would still be alive. With a simple redesign of the Epipen, making it smaller or built into an everyday object, hundreds of lives can be saved.

Even though the random girl at the panini station could have very well killed me, her irresponsible sandwich making skills were a wake up call for me on the importance of carrying my Epipen. Not only do I recognize that it’s on me to be responsible and in control of my allergy, but that through critical thinking and application of my design knowledge, I can make a difference.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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