School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act signed into law

Kids eating lunch at school

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States given incentives to allow schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors in case of emergency

President Obama has signed a bill into law that provides funding for state incentives to stock epinephrine auto-injectors in schools for emergencies.

“This is something that will save children’s lives,” said President Obama during the signing ceremony on Wednesday, November 13. The President also mentioned that his daughter, Malia, has a peanut allergy.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act incentivizes states to adopt laws requiring schools to have stock epinephrine auto-injectors by giving those states preference in eligibility for federal asthma education grants. Thirty states now have laws or guidelines in place allowing schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors, but only four states (Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada and Virginia) currently require it, according to FARE, Food Allergy Research & Education.

Anaphylaxis emergencies

Some states have passed laws that require plans for handling anaphylaxis emergencies. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can lead to death.

Texas requires public schools and open-enrollment charter schools to put plans in place for caring for students with food allergies. The law, which took effect in 2012, gave guidelines to school districts on how to develop their own policies, and then required the districts to develop their own policies.

State guidelines also recommend that epinephrine — the fastest way to stop and even revert a sudden anaphylactic reaction — be easy to access in case of an emergency.

“The best treatment is epinephrine first followed by an oral antihistamine,”  said Dr. John Villacis, Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at ADC. “Once epinephrine is used, the patient should seek medical attention immediately as sometimes one injection is not enough (the injection will wear off within 30 minutes).”

Anaphylactic reactions can have severe symptoms including:

  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Airway compromise
  • Facial swelling

Dr. Villacis says antihistamines typically do not improve those symptoms. They help with itching and rash.

“Some patients wish to try taking Benadryl or other antihistamines when they suspect that they’re having an allergic reaction,” he said.  “The use of any oral antihistamine can take 30 minutes or longer before it even starts taking effect. Allergic reactions can progress within minutes.”

Increase in food allergies

Supporters of the federal legislation, including the Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA), say such laws protect the safety of students. An estimated 4 to 6 percent of children in the US are affected by food allergies. Food allergies among children increased 50 percent from 1997 to 2011.

“This legislation will help save lives of those who experience an anaphylactic reaction and don’t have a prescribed epinephrine auto-injector,” said Tonya Winders, chief operating officer, AANMA.

“We are thrilled to see this legislation signed by President Obama and thank him for bringing national attention to the need to protect students with food allergies,” said John L. Lehr, CEO of FARE. “It is our hope that this legislation serves as the catalyst for states to recognize the need to not just allow schools to stock epinephrine, but to require this important medication be available to our students and empower school personnel to save lives.”