By Denise Dick
A new federal law will protect children who suffer severe allergic reactions while in school and give priority funding to states that ensure schools maintain supplies of allergy medicine.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Monday announced the passage of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which gives priority federal funding for asthma control programs to states that ensure that all schools maintain an epinephrine supply.
The announcement was made at Austintown Intermediate School.
“About 200,000 Americans every year go to the emergency room because of allergies,” Brown said.
One in 13 children experience severe allergic reactions, he said.
Without quick treatment, the reactions can result in death.
A recently passed Ohio law allows schools to keep the epinephrine medication, commonly called EpiPens, in stock for students without a prescription.
But Brown believes the state legislation should go further.
The Ohio law awaits the governor’s signature.
Until the recently passed Ohio law, school personnel weren’t permitted to administer the medication to a student, even if the student was in anaphylactic shock, unless that child had a prescription.
Kim Stanislo of the Ohio Action for Healthy Kids, a licensed school nurse whose 11-year-old son has severe allergies, and Theresa Murphy of Cortland, a nurse, whose 9-year-old son, a student at St. Rose School in Girard, has asthma and severe food allergies, joined Brown at the news conference.
Stanislo, who lives near Cleveland and is the nurse at Constellation Schools, also near Cleveland, watched as her son’s face and tongue swelled when he went into anaphylactic shock for the first time. Before that, the family didn’t know the boy was allergic to peanuts.
The pens cost between $100 and $200 and while covered by health insurance, most families want to keep one at home and one at school. Insurance generally covers only one.
Stanislo said school staff are trained to use the device, jabbing it into the large thigh muscle and holding for 10 seconds. Symptoms begin subside quickly although they may recur so it’s important to call 911 when a child experiences an attack.
Murphy’s son was 14 months old when they family discovered his severe allergies which include peanuts, tree nuts, dairy and eggs. Now, the EpiPen is something the family takes with them wherever they go, she said.
“We don’t plan trip without it,” Murphy said.
At school, the pen is with the teacher or staff member wherever he is.
“It goes wherever he goes,” Murphy said.
Twenty-six states have epinephrine stocking laws, and Ohio and Pennsylvania are among a handful of others with pending epinephrine stocking legislation, according to Brown’s office.
Nevada, Virginia and Maryland require schools to stock the drugs.