Preparing schools for food allergies

A new law keeps kids with food allergies--even ones that are undiagnosed--safe at school.
School Cafeteria

An act recently signed by President Obama will make it easier to provide epinephrine in schools to children with severe food allergies, even without a prescription.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, signed by the President in November 2013, provides states federal grants if schools maintain a supply of epinephrine and trains employees to administer the drug in an emergency. The bill, which is aimed to protect millions of kids from severe food allergies, also provides civil-liability protection for those who administer epinephrine in an emergency.

"This issue has to be addressed where kids are most vulnerable to an attack, says David Stukus, M.D., an allergist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Ninety percent of all schools in America have at least one child who has a food allergy, and the numbers keep going up."

Additionally, six percent of children in the U.S. are now diagnosed with a food allergy, and it's estimated that 1 in 4 experience their first allergic reaction to food while at school.

"When a child has a severe allergic reaction, seconds are crucial because timely administration of epinephrine is the single most important way to save lives, and this act will help schools do just that," says Dr. Stukus.

Sarah Denny, M.D., a pediatrician in the Emergency Department at Nationwide Children's Hospital, knows how crucial it is to have an epinephrine auto injector close by if your child has a severe allergy. As a physician, she has treated dozens of children for serious food allergies, and as a mother nearly lost her own son to them.

Dr. Denny's son, Liam, just 18 months old at the time, had an anaphylactic reaction to soy milk in 2008. Previous testing confirmed he was allergic to dairy, egg, peanuts and tree nuts, but Liam drank soy milk for months before his anaphylactic reaction. After drinking a cup of soy milk as he had done regularly for months, Liam immediately started coughing, vomiting, developed hives all over his body, and slipped into unconsciousness after a few minutes. Dr. Denny's husband, also a physician, administered Liam's epinephrine auto injector, then immediately called 911.

Thankfully, in the 10-minute ride in the ambulance, the epinephrine started to work and by the time they got to the Emergency Department, Liam was sitting up and waving to the nurses.

"Had we not had an epinephrine auto injector at home, I don't know that we would have been so lucky," says Dr. Denny. "There is no reason why we shouldn't have something ready and waiting in our schools that could save a child's life."

Food Allergies: Keeping Medication in Schools is Crucial
Food Allergies: Keeping Medication in Schools is Crucial

Courtesy of Nationwide Children's Hospital

Originally featured on Nationwide Children's (nationwidechildrens.org) and reprinted with permission.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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