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Should Ohio Have Epinephrine in Schools?
MIAMI VALLEY -- School cafeterias present a problem for children with food allergies, or those who might be allergic but the parents might not know.
Food allergens can send an allergic child into an anaphylactic attack - the most severe form of allergic reaction. Epinephrine (commonly referred to by a brand name of EpiPen) is the first-line treatment required to treat an anaphylactic reaction. Yet many school districts don't keep the drug in stock.
"We only keep the ones for kids that have food allergies so about 8-10 kids," said Mary Barnett of the Ohio Association of School Nurses agrees that's not enough.
Right now Ohio law only allows schools to keep EpiPen if a student gets a signed note from their doctor, but what Barnett wants to do is to make sure schools have extra just in case.
"Their used for food allergies, bee sting allergies, latex allergies, anything you're allergic to," said Barnett.
"Some parents might not know until they have an incident," said Kettering parent Deby Dunn.
Right now about half of the states in the U.S. allow schools to keep extra EpiPens for children with food allergies. There are a couple reasons states like Ohio haven't allowed it.
"You have a very few number of adults and children that actually have an unknown allergy so it's the fear of the unknown and the cost is a big issue," said Barnett.
They cost a couple hundred bucks per box, plus the districts would have to pay licensing fees.
"Also, not every school has a school nurse, so schools that don't have school nurses, they are not as comfortable administering an EpiPen if they are not sure if the child is having a reaction," said Barnett.
Right now legislatures are drafting a law allowing the extra EpiPens in schools. Until then, if you're child has an allergic reaction administrators will just have to call 9-1-1.
"Calling 9-1-1 is not a bad strategy either," said Beavercreek parent Kristel Griffiths. "That's why they are there, but it's definitely a two-sided argument and there's not a very clear-cut answer if you ask me."
According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, many states introduced bills in 2013 enabling schools to keep a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors on hand in case a child has a severe allergic reaction. Ohio is not one of those states.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) offers these tips to make sure your child has a safe start to the school year:
Be sure your child's medical information is complete, up-to date, and in a form that is easily understood by school staff.
Your child's medication should clearly show their name and the dosage.
Schedule appointments to meet with the school nurse, your child's teachers, including the physical education teacher, and even the principal at a time when school staff is not too busy.
Talk with the cafeteria staff about food choices and special accommodations. Be clear and concise about the seriousness of the allergy, what your child is allergic to, and what can be done to ensure safety. It may help the staff if a picture of your child is posted in the kitchen.
Talk to your children about their responsibility to take medications and not taking food from other kids. Even at an early age, it is critical that your children begin to identify symptoms and learn to ask for help. Explain that they have to take action immediately because of the serious nature of an anaphylaxis reaction.
Become familiar with your state's policies regarding food allergy education, prevention and emergency care at school. Look for state summaries on AAFA's new report, the 2013 State Honor Roll of Asthma and Allergy Policies for Schools, and read, "Where Does Your School Stand on Stocking Epinephrine?" at www.StateHonorRoll.org.
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