HARRISBURG – To help give greater protection to children living with food allergies, legislation allowing schools to obtain life-saving medication passed the state House today, according to its sponsor, Rep. Dick Stevenson (R-Mercer/Butler).
“One in 13 children suffers from a food allergy, and even though a child and his or her family may put forth great effort to stay away from the potentially dangerous food items, there is always a risk of accidental exposure,” Stevenson said. “Allowing schools to obtain a prescription for an epinephrine auto injector, known as an ‘EpiPen,’ could mean the difference between life and death should an accidental exposure occur.”
In many cases where a child suffers an allergic reaction, the child experiences anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction that can result in death if not treated immediately. Anaphylaxis accounts for more than 300,000 hospital visits by children each year in the United States. Medical experts recommend that individuals who experience acute systemic allergic reactions be instructed to err on the side of caution and inject epinephrine promptly. The epinephrine contained in an EpiPen works quickly, usually within minutes, and its effects are extremely brief.
Under House Bill 803, a school may obtain a physician’s prescription for a supply of EpiPens that will be maintained in the school in a safe and secure setting. The bill also permits authorized personnel to administer the EpiPen to any student suffering from anaphylaxis.
This legislation does not implement any type of requirement upon the school and is solely voluntarily.
Data suggested that up to 25 percent of all EpiPen administration occurs in a school setting where the student’s risk for anaphylaxis was unknown at the time of the event. In addition, use of epinephrine within minutes of a student’s food allergy exposure can literally save a child’s life by opening his or her airway until emergency personnel arrive.
This legislation, modeled after the 2011 Illinois law, now heads to the state Senate for consideration.