Epinephrine Now Kept in More Schools to Treat Allergic Reactions

Image: Epinephrine Now Kept in More Schools to Treat Allergic Reactions An epinephrine auto-injector.

Thursday, 17 Oct 2013 04:09 PM

By David Ogul

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A growing number of states are requiring schools to stock epinephrine, a drug that can save the life of a child suffering from certain allergies.

Twenty-seven states allow or require schools to stock the allergy-fighting drug. All allow schools to stock epinephrine without a prescription for an individual person and provide legal protection for staffers who administer it, The Associated Press says. Sixteen of those states enacted such laws this year alone.

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Epinephrine can be life-saving because it’s effective in stopping the swelling in a person’s throat or tongue and can prevent cardiac or respiratory failure in people allergic to bee stings or such foods as peanuts, wheat, milk or eggs.

The House of Representatives in July passed a bill sponsored by a Tennessee Republican and a Maryland Republican that would give states with policies making epinephrine available in schools preference when seeking asthma-related grants.

"My granddaughter has a severe peanut allergy, and the presence of EpiPens in schools can be lifesaving," Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland told The Associated Press, referring to a brand of auto injector.

Virtually every state has passed laws that let students carry their own epinephrine at school, as long as they have proper consent, according to the group Food, Allergy, Research & Education. Massachusetts in 1993 became the first state in the country with such a law, followed by Rhode Island in 1998.

The website AllergicChild.com says there have been at least two deaths in the past 18 months where a child had a severe allergic reaction at school and did not have epinephrine on hand. Had the school stocked the drug, “these children could have received a dose while 911 was being called. The hope is that a school nurse, or a nurse’s designee, would be able to administer the epinephrine after noting the allergic reaction. In other words, lives would be saved!”

An article in the Yale Journal of Medicine & Law, however, pointed out some drawbacks to the legislation allowing school personnel to administer the drug, saying a “relaxed standard of care may make us uncomfortable allowing unlicensed school personnel to treat students with unprescribed medicine. … If school staff were to erroneously use EpiPen on a student and aggravate the child’s condition, such laws would render the staff unaccountable for 'ordinary negligence' where a licensed physician would be liable.”

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Related stories:

BBC Staffer’s Banana Allergy Triggers Self-Imposed Ban on the Fruit

Axe Body Spray Banned from High School Due to Student's Allergy

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