US teen dies of severe allergic reaction to nuts at high school dance

Alyssa West and her family
An allergic reaction has claimed the life of a teenager celebrating her high school formal. Photo credit: Facebook / Go Fund Me

A teenage girl has died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to nuts while celebrating her high school formal. 

Alyssa West, a student from Huntington Beach in Orange County, California, had CPR administered and was rushed to hospital, but died a week after being placed on life support. 

In a GoFundMe page that has since raised almost US$155,000 at the time of writing, Alyssa - who was known by her friends and family as Aly - was described as a "vibrant, loving and caring soul".

The teenager suffered the allergic reaction while attending her high school's winter formal with her friends on January 28, the organiser of the fundraiser explained. 

After being transferred to Children's Hospital of Orange County, Aly - surrounded by her "ever-loving" parents Jake and Liza and extended family - was placed on life support. 

In an update on February 2, her parents confirmed the passing of their "beautiful and loving daughter". 

"Aly was the center of our world and the light of our lives. We are lost without her," they said.

"If anything becomes of Aly's tragic nut allergic reaction, the one thing she would want is for everyone to come together, regardless of their differences, and treat each other with grace and kindness. Her short time on this planet touched so many. 

"Please help us grieve by remembering to love like Aly - that is, to help each other rise up, and make a difference in this world. Our Aly was truly special."

The community has banded together to commemorate the young student's life, holding vigils, decorating the pavements with chalk tributes and wearing purple at local schools in her honour. 

Her family described the teenager as smiley, caring, talented and a "true leader", noting she was a dancer, the captain of her cheerleading team, and a debater for the Model United Nations.

Almost 2000 people have donated to her family's fundraiser, with the top donation at the time of writing coming from an anonymous donor who put forward US$10,000.

Aly's death has struck a chord with parents of children who suffer life-threatening allergies, with one mum writing on the GoFundMe: "My heart beats with yours. I am the mom of a kid with allergies. I am deeply sorry that allergies took your girl."

"Both of my kids also have nut allergies, our thoughts and prayers go out to your family," said another, with a third adding: "Our only son has a life-threatening peanut allergy and as such we are so incredibly sorry for your loss. Our hearts and prayers go out to your family during this tragic time."

According to Starship Children's Hospital, food allergies affect up to 10 percent of children under five years and is defined as an adverse immunologic reaction to a food protein.

As per Allergy New Zealand, around one in 10 infants have a food allergy by 12 months of age. While some will outgrow their allergies (mainly to milk and eggs), it's estimated 6 to 8 percent of school-age children and 2 to 4 percent of adults have an existing food allergy.