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Lawmaker: Pa. schools should stock prefilled injections for allergic reactions

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

EASTON — A state lawmaker wants to require every school in the commonwealth to stock prefilled injections designed to treat severe allergic reactions.

Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, told The (Easton) Express-Times that such reactions can be life-threatening. He said having such devices on hand would allow school officials to act quickly in an emergency.

The devices, such as EpiPens, are used to inject epinephrine into someone showing signs of a serious allergic reaction such as hives, throat tightening and decreased blood pressure.

The proposal would build on a 2010 law that allows students to carry such devices with parental and doctor approval. Freeman said the shots would ideally be administered by a school nurse, although he acknowledges that not all schools have full-time nurses.

The Bethlehem Area School District voluntarily stocks all of its 22 buildings with EpiPens, but Liberty High nurse Kathy Halkins said that can be expensive because each adult set costs about $325 and must be discarded once it expires.

Bethlehem's two high schools have used many EpiPens this year, compared with only one last year, but few if any have been used in the elementary schools, she said.

“There are many students who don't carry their EpiPen like they're supposed to or they don't know they have an allergy or it is expired,” Halkins said.

She said she hadn't read Freeman's proposal but said the idea is a good one as long as districts enact accompanying policies.

Freeman said that without a mandate, districts might not stock the devices because of the cost, and a requirement is important given a dramatic rise in child food allergies.

“Reaction time is critical when it comes to anaphylactic shock,” Freeman said. “The time it takes to get an ambulance there could put a child's life in danger. If you have it on premise and have trained personnel, you can instantly respond to that situation.”

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