EpiPen bill good news for schools
By Megan Harris
Published: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Liam Denny probably drank soy milk hundreds of times before his body went into anaphylactic shock five years ago, shutting down his respiratory system and throwing his mother into high gear.
“We already knew he was allergic to peanuts, milk and eggs,” Sarah Denny, a pediatrician, said of her son, who is now 7. “So we had the epinephrine injectors, but what if this happened to another child at school, one who didn't have a prescription or a mother trained to know what to do?”
Proponents of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act heralded legislation President Obama signed on Wednesday that urges states to adopt laws requiring schools to have “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors on hand without student-specific prescriptions.
Epinephrine, often delivered through EpiPen injectors, can prevent adverse reactions and death in children who have severe allergies, such as Obama's daughter Malia, who has a peanut allergy.
Denny, an emergency room physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, started lobbying for state legislation years ago.
“So not only is this great for the 27 states who already have laws in place,” she said, “but it also provides prioritization to states still working to pass them.”
About 25 percent of epinephrine shots given in schools involve children who weren't known to be allergic, said pediatrician Todd Green, who works in the division of pulmonary medicine, allergy and immunology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Most food reactions happen quickly, he said, with symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, hives, vomiting, lowered blood pressure and, if untreated, death.
School officials who think someone is having an attack should administer the drug immediately, he said.
“I tell every baby-sitter, every teacher, every nurse, every soccer coach — anyone who takes care of my son,” Denny said, “I would so much rather you give the Epi and be wrong than not give the Epi and be wrong.”
Food allergies cause more than 300,000 hospital visits a year among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They affect one in 13 children, according to Food Allergy Research & Education Inc., a nonprofit.
Pennsylvania schools can stock the auto-injectors, but they aren't required. Policies and levels of protection for students vary from district to district.
In North Hills School District, educators keep EpiPens in classrooms, gyms, playgrounds, cafeterias and in packs for field trips.
School nurses train teachers before the school year begins, said spokeswoman Amanda Hartle.
“We want to have them close to the students who need them,” she said. “A younger kid might not know where it is in his backpack or understand yet how to give it to himself.”
Federal grant money and programs offered by drug companies to provide free or low-cost medication are designed to ease the financial burden on school districts.
State Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, proposed legislation in the spring that would require schools to maintain a supply and train personnel.
Senate Bill 898 is under consideration in the state Senate Education Committee. The federal law took two years to pass through Congress.
“We've seen what can happen when medication is not available to a student experiencing anaphylaxis,” Smith said. “These tragic deaths are preventable — and, frankly, unacceptable — when the solution is simply having medication and trained personnel on hand.”
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Going coed often only option
- Online classes multiply in state
- Robert Morris University Polling Institute poll finds value of college in doubt