Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sixteen states passed legislation this year making epinephrine available in school in case a child has a severe allergic reaction.
That brings the total number of states able to stock EpiPens to 27.
But advocates say more needs to be done.
Second grader Spencer Kavanagh is allergic to nuts, fruit and latex. In Kindergarten, he had a severe allergic reaction, called Anaphlaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Now, he carries his EpiPen on him at all times.
“I have two of them, ‘cause if I like, if I used one and then I do it, then I have another one, like another allergic reaction again somewhere, I can use both of them,” says Spencer.
EpiPens and other brands of automatic injectors contain epinephrine. It’s the same hormone as adrenaline.
It helps during anaphylaxis by reducing swelling by constricting blood vessels, relaxing airways, and keeping the blood pressure from dangerously dropping.
When taken within minutes of a severe reaction it could mean the difference between life and death.
Almost all schools allow children with known allergies like Spencer to carry EpiPens. But some students are allergic and don’t realize it.
“About 25 percent of children who experience anaphylaxis experience it for the first time at school,” Charlotte Collins, of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, says.
A federal bill that provides incentives to states to stock emergency EpiPens in school has made it through the House of Representatives.
Twenty-seven states have already passed their own legislation and five other states, including Pennsylvania, have bills pending.
“We’re very hopeful that with this bipartisan support, support from the nurses, support from the physicians, that we’ll be able to get it through the state Senate soon,” said Pa. Sen. Matt Smith.
The issue is finding the money to pay for the medicine and the training.
“They could be potentially overused in situations where they’re really not necessary,” Dr. David Skoner, an allergist at Allegheny General Hospital, said. “Training is going to be critical.”