Today, parents can take comfort that their child is allowed to carry and self-administer their epinephrine auto injectors (EAIs) at school, but what happens if your child leaves hers at home or in the library or on the bus? Or what if your child has never been diagnosed with a severe food allergy and her first severe reaction occurs at school? Epinephrine can be a life-saving mechanism in the most dire of situations. In the event of an anaphylactic reaction, epinephrine is the only thing that can reverse the extreme condition. Do you know if your child’s school keeps auto injectors on site, to be prepared in the event of such an emergency?
In 2013, President Barack Obama signed the School Access Emergency Epinephrine Act, which essentially encourages state lawmakers to adopt laws that require k-12 schools to keep undesignated stock epinephrine on hand. Since then, nearly every state has passed some sort of legislation or guidelines to keep stock EAIs in schools, but only a few states actually require it. Other states just suggest that schools keep stock epinephrine on hand.
If you are not certain if your state has passed legislation requiring k-12 schools to keep undesignated stock epinephrine on hand, see the School Access to Epinephrine Map by Food Allergy Research & Education.
If Your Child’s School Does Not Carry Stock EAIs
Contact your school’s board to find out if they carry undesignated epinephrine auto injectors for emergency use. If they do not and you want to advocate for your child’s school to carry EAIs, ask who you can talk to and prepare yourself with how you will present your case. Below are some guidelines for talking with your school board or nurse about why they should keep these life-saving devices on hand.
- Food allergies are a serious growing public health concern that can be life-threatening. Nearly 15 million Americans have a food allergy with 9 million of them being children.
- Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal allergic reaction. The first line of treatment for such a condition is epinephrine.
- Nearly 20-25 percent of epinephrine administrations occur in a school setting involving students or staff who did not know they had an allergy at the time of the event. Many students who have anaphylactic reactions for the first time may not have a known history of allergy to latex, bee stings, food or other allergens.
- When an anaphylactic reaction occurs as a result of exposure to an allergen (whether known previously or not), seconds count. The sooner the epinephrine can be given, the better the outcome will be. Epinephrine should be readily available and accessible in areas where it may be needed most (such as a nurse’s office and cafeteria).
- Schools should be prepared to treat these life-threatening allergic reactions in the event that a student’s personal epinephrine auto-injector is not available, in the event that a child is having a reaction for an allergy that has not been previously diagnosed or in the event that additional doses are required.
- Some schools do not have undesignated stock epinephrine because of the misunderstanding that the cost is too high. There are currently programs in place that can help schools to obtain stock epinephrine at low to no cost.
Additionally, you can share that you feel school staff should be educated on food allergies and anaphylaxis. School teachers, administrators, nurses, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and aides should all know how to help a child in a life-threatening situation.