Epi-Pens In Every School: How You Can Help

by Bettina Elias Siegel on September 10, 2013

PeanutsBack in February, 2012 I told you about  a seven-year-old, peanut-allergic girl who died in Virginia because her family hadn’t supplied her school with an Epi-Pen, and the school nurse was constrained by rules prohibiting the use of an Epi-Pen prescribed to another child, even in an emergency.

As I mentioned then, Virginia (and other states) have passed laws to prevent this tragic outcome from happening again, but the legislative landscape is patchy and doesn’t always provide clear directives to schools.  The good news is, there’s also federal legislation in the works to provide needed uniformity across the states.  That bill, entitled the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, passed in the House in July and is likely to come before the Senate soon.  If adopted, the law would condition federal grant money on states allowing qualified school personnel to administer Epi-Pens in an emergency and, most importantly, to keep a stock of undesignated Epi-Pens for anyone who might need one.

Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld, a parent of a food allergic child, took to the New York Times editorial page this past Sunday to urge passage of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.  (You may remember an earlier, provocative piece by Sittenfeld asking parents to keep their children from running around with snacks on the playground to protect kids with allergies.  That article stimulated a lot of conversation on Salon, where it was published, and also here on The Lunch Tray.)

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act seems like a no-brainer but it needs our support to ensure its passage.  FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) lays out here a list of things you can do, even if you’re not a parent of a food-allergic child.  Because as Sittenfeld chillingly notes in her Times piece:

. . .  a significant portion of severe allergic reactions at school occur among students with no prior allergy diagnosis. . . .  As a nurse at the office of my family’s allergy doctor has said to me repeatedly, “Anyone can develop an allergy to anything at any time.”

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