Allergy Foundation Says NC Schools Should Stock Meds


AAFA - Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

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 the North Carolina General Assembly for considering H 824, which would require public schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, allow them to be used in emergencies, and address liability concerns for those who use this medication in good-faith. However, AAFA is concerned that one section would restrict use of these life saving devices on pupils whose allergic conditions are known.  AAFA urges the General Assembly to eliminate that restriction and 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.

North Carolina lawmakers are wise to join them by enacting H 824.  Approximately 20-25% of epinephrine injections in schools involve children whose allergy was unknown at the time of the reaction.  H 824 will offer them hope for protection while at school.

However, legislators must act to amend H 824 with its mandate to schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors.  Further, we ask lawmakers to delete Sec. 1 (e), which directs that school’s stock of epinephrine auto-injectors “shall not be used as the sole medication supply for students known to have a medical condition requiring the availability of use of an epinephrine auto-injector.”  While this language is an improvement over that included in SB 700, which would prohibit epinephrine auto-injectors kept on hand at schools from being used to treat “students known to have a medical condition requiring the availability or use of an epinephrine auto-injector”, H 824 raises the same issue: the risk of delay.  Delaying treatment can mean organ damage and even death when it comes to anaphylaxis.  H 824’s  restriction will mean precious time may lost as school staff determines if a student experiencing anaphylaxis is a student whom they are allowed to treat.  The image of caring teachers and school nurses watching a young person expire while a lifesaving medication is on hand is unimaginable.  We appreciate that supporters of this bill may want to discourage parents from relying on the schools to supply medications for their children; however, we urge that they prioritize the health and safety of the children at risk and not penalize them because of their parents.  Schools can be trusted to monitor supplies wisely.

AAFA urges North Carolina legislators 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.

About AAFA
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.

For more information on AAFA Public Policy & Advocacy:
Liana Burns, AAFA Policy & Programs, or 1-202-466-7643, x252

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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