Durbin and Kirk Introduce Legislation to Protect School Children with Allergies


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) today introduced a bill to encourage schools across the country to maintain access to critical life saving medication for children with food and other allergies. The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act will encourage states across the nation to improve school access to epinephrine auto-injectors, like the EpiPen, to be used if students have life threatening systemic allergic reactions.

“Every day, almost 50 million children pass through the doors of public schools across the country. For these young people, school is a place to learn, to make new friends, and to be exposed to new things. For a small number of these children – about 1 in every 13 – school lunchtime or a classmate’s school birthday party can risk exposure to foods that can cause a severe and life threatening reaction. For these kids, the consequences of exposure to the wrong food can be fatal. But, for many, the worst case is preventable.  Schools can be prepared for these situations by having epinephrine on hand, and trained staff to administer it in the few minutes they have to save the life of a child experiencing a severe allergic reaction. This bill encourages states to take these precautions, and I will work with Senator Kirk to pass this bill to ensure that we’re taking every appropriate step to protect kids in their schools,” Sen. Durbin said.

“For the millions of children suffering from serious, potentially fatal allergies, the safe and expedient administration of epinephrine can mean the difference between life and death,” Sen. Kirk said. “Something as seemingly harmless as a bee sting during recess, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during lunch, can quickly become a tragedy. This bill encourages schools throughout the nation to prevent allergy-related deaths by allowing trained, qualified staff to offer an injection of epinephrine to a student suffering from a severe allergic reaction.”

The legislation would reward states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors and permit trained authorized school personnel to administer an epinephrine injection if a student experiences an anaphylactic reaction. The bill also contains a provision that requires those states to have “Good Samaritan” laws in place to protect school employees who administer an epinephrine auto-injector to any student believed to be experiencing anaphylaxis. These states would be granted preference for asthma-related grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We are grateful to Senators Durbin and Kirk for introducing this groundbreaking legislation to protect all children at risk of anaphylaxis. We want our schoolchildren to have access to life-saving epinephrine, should they need it,” said Maria L. Acebal, CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

Earlier this year, the State of Illinois passed a law that allows schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine on site and for school nurses to administer epinephrine to any student suffering from a severe allergic reaction.  The legislation proposed by Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk would expand on the Illinois law by allowing all trained and authorized school personnel – not just school nurses – to administer the epinephrine. The new legislation would reward states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine.

In a letter to Durbin and Kirk, the National Association of School Nurses President Linda Davis-Alldritt said, “Since a school nurse is not always available during an emergency, other school personnel should have appropriate training for when an anaphylactic reaction occurs.  Early recognition of symptoms and prompt interventions of appropriate therapy are vital to survival. Having access to medication, and having procedures in place, saves lives for both students and staff.  This type of legislation would be beneficial to everyone in the school with severe allergies to foods, and those at risk of anaphylaxis to bee stings, latex, or other allergens.”

Although students with severe allergies are currently allowed to self-administer epinephrine if they have a serious allergic reaction, a quarter of anaphylaxis cases at schools involve young people with no previous allergy who are unlikely to carry a personal epinephrine auto-injector. In 2001, a study found that 28 percent of school-aged children who died due to an allergic reaction, died at school where epinephrine was either not administered or was administered too late.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is supported by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the National Association of School Nurses, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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