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Following Son's Death, L.I. Family Urges Parents To Come Up With Food Allergy Plan

LAWRENCE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - A family on Long Island is sharing their story of unbelievable pain in hopes of saving lives.

Holy Trinity Diocesan High School freshman Giovanni Cipriano died a month ago due to an allergic reaction to peanuts.

His heartbroken parents spoke exclusively to CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff about their ordeal and their new effort to educate parents about food allergies.

As Gusoff reported, a tragic series of events one month ago cost Gio Cipriano his life.

What started as a mild allergy attack got worse. He was rushed to the hospital, gasping for air.

"I took his hand and I said 'don't worry, we're here.' And when I grabbed his hand, he was cold," Gio's mother Giorgina Cipriano told Gusoff.

The 14-year-old had an anaphylactic reaction to eating trail mix he didn't know contained peanuts.

"It didn't say 'may contain peanuts.' It just said 'may contain tree nuts' and Giovanni was not allergic to tree nuts, only peanuts," Giorgina said.

She said she first gave him Benadryl but en route to the hospital, his heart stopped.

Gio slipped into a coma, was on life support for weeks and died last month. His parents are now speaking out about lessons that came too late for them.

"I definitely wasn't prepared and I don't think there is anybody out there that's prepared for that to happen," Giorgina told Gusoff.

It's difficult for Giorgina and John Cipriano to talk about their loss. Giovanni had an EpiPen but didn't use it.

"I blame that there isn't enough education out there. I blame that there isn't enough awareness out there," Giorgina said.

Specialists say peanut allergies, which can be the most lethal, are on the rise. Diagnoses of the allergy have tripled in the last decade.

Experts say Gio's death highlights the importance of understanding how to respond to a reaction.

"There is no way to predict if you ingest that food again what kind of reaction will happen," Dr. Blanka Kaplan, an allergist at North Shore-LIJ Hospital, told Gusoff.

Doctors say anyone who has ever had an immediate allergic reaction to food should carry an epinephrine injector and know when to use it.

"Any kind of throat complaints, any kind of shortness of breath," Dr. Kaplan advised.

Giovanni's parents said he was an honor student with a silly side. Now, they're honoring his memory by warning other parents of kids with food allergies.

"Don't take it lightly because we did take it lightly. We definitely never thought, because we never had a serious reaction. And within it felt like a half a minute, our life was turned upside down," John Cipriano told Gusoff.

Their message to parents is to have an allergist and have a plan in case of a reaction.

The family is starting a foundation in Giovanni's name called Gio's Smile to raise awareness about how to prepare for food allergy attacks.

A page set up to help the family pay for burial and medical costs.

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