Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Epinephrine Should Be Stocked in Every School

by Clifton Dennis, BHS, RRT, AE-C


Anaphylaxis is a concerning disorder because of its life-threatening potential. It is well established that intramuscular epinephrine is a life-saving therapy in anaphylaxis, but epinephrine is not always available when it is needed most.

Last year, for example, a seven-year-old girl at Hopkins Road Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA, died after eating a peanut on the playground. She did not have an EpiPen at school. In 2010, a 13-year old girl died after eating food that had been ordered in for a school event and contained peanut oil.

The following year, Illinois passed a law allowing — but not requiring — schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine on site and to have school nurses administer the medication to any student suffering a severe allergic reaction. A few months later, two Illinois senators introduced the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act into Congress to encourage states to go beyond simply allowing schools to stockpile the medication.

In November of 2013 the President signed the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act into law, providing schools with a financial incentive to stock epinephrine. States that require schools to maintain a supply of the medication and permit trained school personnel to administer it will get preference when applying for federal children’s asthma-treatment grants.

Advocates for the bill say the law provides a carrot for states to go a step further and mandate that schools stock the medication. A great number of parents and members of the food allergy community worked very hard to push this bill through.

Under the new law, school employees other than a nurse will be able to administer an EpiPen injection in an emergency if they have had training. Some children have their first serious reaction to food or insect bites when they are at school. Having an EpiPen on hand in the midst of a potentially deadly reaction — even if it has not been prescribed for that child — can save lives.

According to the Allergy and Asthma Network, “stock epinephrine” laws are now in place in all but six states, but much more work is needed to ensure states implement and enforce policies that will truly protect children during the school day.

Mylan Specialty, maker of the EpiPen products, is offering free EpiPens to schools through its EpiPen 4 Schools program to help them achieve that goal. 

Clifton Dennis, an AARC member, is a respiratory therapist and certified asthma education coordinator from Augusta, GA, where he currently serves as pediatric lead therapist-asthma educator at Georgia Regents-Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

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