Boy, 11, dies after severe allergic reaction

Posted at 6:30 PM, Apr 26, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY - Simply biting into a snack led to the death a St. George boy. 11-year-old Tanner Henstra died after an allergic reaction to peanuts.

Family, friends and classmates mourned his death during a viewing Friday night at an LDS stake center in St. George.

“This could have happened to anyone of our children and the Utah food allergy community and the national food allergy community is mourning this loss,” said Michelle Fogg, President of the Utah Food Allergy Network

While at friend’s home in St. George last week, Tanner Henstra simply bit into a peanut butter-filled pretzel. Knowing he had a peanut allergy and asthma, he quickly spit it out but that little contact was enough to cause the boy’s tongue and throat to swell up and cut off his airway.

“The family was aware and they were prepared but all these uncontrollable variables came together,” said Fogg.

It's called an anaphylactic attack.  It happened to Alicia Reed’s daughter, Erin, in 2007.
Erin ate a chocolate snack with peanuts in it and had a severe reaction.

“I was crying and freaking out. I was asking her if she was ok and she had a rash around her mouth,” said Alicia Reed. “There was another incident when she was 3 and had a rash but never had this breathing problem before.”

The drug epinephrine could have saved Tanner's life. It’s a hormone known as the first line of defense in allergic reactions like this.

His family had the drug but Tanner didn't have it on him at the time of the reaction. And by the time his mother rushed to help and injected him with an EpiPen, it was too late.  Tanner already went into cardiac arrest. Despite being air lifted to Primary Children’s Medical Center, the lack of oxygen to his brain was irreversible.

Doctors say when it comes to peanut-related fatalities, "90 to 95 percent are due to the fact that they did not get epinephrine in time and that seems to be a common theme."

Allergist Dr. Rafael Firszt says food allergies are on the rise. It’s unclear why, but one in 13 children have a food allergy. That’s two per classroom. Peanuts are the third most common allergy, after milk and eggs.

As Tanner’s story proves, even the slightest contact can cause a deadly reaction.

“Sometimes you’re only talking about minutes that you have to save a life,” said Fogg.

Tanner’s family donated his organs.  Already the 11-year-old boy has saved three lives.  If you’d like to help them with funeral costs, there’s a link on this website.

A fund has been set up at to help Tanner's family pay for funeral costs.