The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) supports school policies that promote access to life-saving medications to treat students and staff who experience severe allergic reactions. The Foundation commends State Rep. Ryan Winkler for introducing HB 688 in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and Senator Charles Wiger for introducing its companion bill, SF 512, in the Minnesota State Senate. This measure would supply schools with epinephrine auto-injectors, allow epinephrine auto-injectors to be used in emergencies, appropriately train school personnel, and address liability concerns for those who use this medication in good-faith. AAFA urges the Minnesota State Legislature to pass this bill before the legislative session closes.
Food allergy prevalence is rising, especially in young children. For the 6 million children that have been diagnosed with a food allergy to nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy or any of the other common food items that can trigger life-threatening anaphylaxis, the most severe type of allergic reaction, the everyday act of eating carries potential for worry. “No one can predict how severe a food allergic reaction will be,” said Charlotte Collins, vice president for policy and programs at AAFA. “It is essential for schools to prepare by stocking epinephrine, the life-saving medication for food allergy emergencies”.
Epinephrine Auto Injectors Save Lives
When a person comes into contact with a food allergen, an immune response is triggered and anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis is a serious medical condition, which can be life-threatening if rapidly developing symptoms are not treated promptly. Epinephrine is the medication indicated by medical experts as first-aid treatment for a severe allergic reaction to food. With prompt injection, epinephrine is nearly always effective in the treatment of anaphylaxis. Delay increases the risk of poor outcomes and even fatalities. The epinephrine auto-injector is relatively easy to use, quick to administer and is low-cost to maintain an adequate supply. The facts are simple: when available, epinephrine auto-injectors save lives.
Children spend a sizable amount of their time in school, whether for daily instruction or recreational activities. Therefore, schools must be prepared to address the safety of their students. The entire school team should be involved in developing an emergency action plan. Through an open, proactive, and collaborative process, students with food allergies can be safer in the school environment.
States Are Acting to Prepare Schools for Emergencies
However, adopting an emergency action plan may not be enough. “If a school does not have an epinephrine auto-injector on-site that staff can access at any time, a child may die waiting,” Collins continued. In 2012, a Virginia first grader went into anaphylactic shock after a friend offered her a peanut at recess. She was rushed to the school nurse and 911 was called. By the time the ambulance arrived, she had gone into cardiac arrest. She died a short time later at a nearby hospital. Her tragic passing instilled a sense of urgency in Virginia to protect school children and Virginia passed a law requiring schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors. Maryland and Illinois have enacted similar laws.
Minnesota lawmakers are wise to join them by enacting HF 688/SF 512. If passed, this law would not only protect students with diagnosed food allergies, but also students who have an allergic reaction for the first time at school. Approximately 20-25% of epinephrine injections in schools involve children whose allergy was unknown at the time of the reaction.
AAFA urges the Minnesota State Legislature to make the simple decision to save young lives. If schools have access to undesignated epinephrine auto injectors and staff trained to administer the medication, children will not die at school when a snack lands in the wrong hands.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), founded in 1953 by the two leading professional medical organizations in the United States devoted to the allergy/immunology specialty, is the oldest asthma and allergy patient group in the world. AAFA is an independent, not-for-profit association dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with these chronic conditions through education, advocacy and research.