Bullied Winnipeg teen teaching peers about food allergies

A Winnipeg teen with food allergies is teaching her peers how to help in the case of a crisis.

Hannah Lank, 17, has experienced social isolation due to the fact that she has a food allergy

A Winnipeg teen with food allergies is teaching her peers how to help in the case of a crisis. 1:43

A Winnipeg teen with food allergies is teaching her peers how to help in the case of a crisis.

Nearly seven per cent of Canadians have some form of food allergy. For some, an allergic reaction is a life or death situation.
Hannah Lank has taught nearly 1,200 of her peers how to administer an injector (EpiPen) in the event they see someone with a food allergy having an allergic reaction. (Supplied)

“I think it is important to teach people about food allergies,” said 17-year-old Hannah Lank.

Lank has a severe peanut allergy she has been living with since she was a baby.

"When you have food allergies, people don't always understand how serious it can be, so you have to always be willing to explain, to educate, and that's how I believe we are going to get past the issue of food allergy bullying," said Lank.

She’s made it her mission to educate her school-aged peers on the severity and dangers of being exposed to food allergens.

Social isolation

Lank’s first allergic reaction happened when she was two-years-old when she consumed a dish with peanuts in it at a restaurant.

“By the time we got home you couldn't even tell it was the same girl,” said Lank’s mother.
Lank, diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy as a baby, learned at an early age the importance of reading labels on food. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

Over the years Lank has learned to always read labels, but the allergy has also at times brought with it things like social isolation.

“When it is difficult to go out to restaurants or to parties because you don't know if you can eat the food, I guess it just makes you feel like you're not part of the group and feel uncomfortable or different and that can be tough for a lot of people,” said Lank.

When Lank was five-years-old, her friends played a prank on her that could’ve resulted in a serious allergic reaction.

“They had filled up my mailbox with peanuts and obviously that was just ignorance, they didn't understand that these peanuts could kill me,” said Lank.

Teaching peers

She has tried to teach her friends and colleagues what to do in the event she or someone else has a reaction, giving presentations to students so they know what it’s like to have a food allergy.

She has taught nearly 1,200 students how to use an injector on someone having an allergic reaction.

Lank’s mom is proud her daughter has used her allergy to help ensure the safety of others.

“One of the easiest things that has to be done in case of a reaction is to administer an EpiPen,” said Lanks mother. “It takes seconds to learn how to administer this thing and it will save a life.”