Legislation would require schools to stock epinephrine to treat reactions to food allergies

PITTSBURGH, May 8, 2013 – Pennsylvania Sen. Matt Smith, D-Allegheny/Washington, will introduce legislation that would require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as Epi-Pens, in a secure location to be used by designated personnel to treat an anaphylactic reaction.

Smith will introduce Senate Bill 898 on Tuesday, May 14, and will be joined at 10 am that morning at the Capitol Media Center in the Main Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa., by physicians and families and advocates of children with food allergies to discuss the importance of the bill.

Pennsylvania schools have been encouraged in the past to keep on hand a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors. An epinephrine injector sends adrenaline into the victim’s system to slow down the allergic reaction, providing emergency personnel time to treat victims – often saving their lives. Because children exposed to a potential food allergy need immediate medical attention, requiring epinephrine injectors to be kept at school will save children’s lives.

“The number of children with food allergies and the incidence of life-threatening allergic reactions to food in schools are rising,” said Sen. Smith. “Schools are meant to be a safe place for children. It’s not enough to encourage schools to stock epinephrine injectors. To truly protect our children, we must ensure they have access to life-saving medication.”

Similar laws mandating schools stock epinephrine have been passed recently. Last year, Virginia and Maryland passed laws requiring schools to keep a supply of epinephrine on hand, bringing the total number of states requiring schools to stock the medication to eight.

This year, Kentucky passed a law in April encouraging schools to keep emergency medication on hand for children who suffer severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. A Florida bill is awaiting the governor’s signature, and in Washington, a new law expands the ability for school nurses to administer epinephrine to any student, not just one diagnosed with an allergy.

In total, approximately 30 states have either introduced or will soon introduce legislation allowing schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors. Approximately 20 states have already passed such laws.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey suggests that about one in 20 children in the United States has food allergies, marking a 50 percent increase from the late 1990s. Other estimates indicate that more than 6 million children suffer from food allergies. More troubling, a 2005 study found 24 percent of severe allergic reactions occurred in children with no prior history of life-threatening allergies, meaning a first allergy attack could be fatal, either through swelling that shuts off airways or through a significant drop in blood pressure.

In addition to the bill mandating epinephrine be kept in schools, Sen. Smith will also introduce two other epinephrine-related bills, SB 896 and S.B. 897 that will allow and provide guidelines and allow public sector entities and restaurants, respectively, to obtain and administer epinephrine in an emergency situation.  Any individual responsible for administering the medication would also have to successfully complete training regulated by the Department of Health.

 

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