Schools around the United States have been managing a new anxiety: whether or not their students will drop dead during recess of unanticipated allergic shock. Fox News reported that 15 states enacted laws permitting their schools to carry epinephrine pens, joining the 11 that already have.
Parents are slightly torn over the issue: while some parents worry that an irresponsible school official might misdiagnose a situation (since some of the states that permitted Epi-Pens eliminated their school nurses), other parents worry about what would happen if the schools didn’t keep extra Epi-Pens in case a child needed one.
The House of Representatives had passed legislation in July that gives states that create epinephrine policies for schools will receive special preference when applying for asthma grants, which likely explains the deluge of states suddenly permitting their schools to stock Epi-Pens.
In Tennessee, which permitted Epi-Pens in schools just this year, school nurse Amanda Williams found herself using one almost immediately when a third-grader suffered a wasp sting, triggering an asthma attack. The ER doctor informed the third-grader’s parents that without that quick epinephrine injection, their son may have died. “It would have been tragic,” Williams said of the incident.
The senior vice president of public policy and advocacy for the Allergy Foundation, Charlotte Collins, said the rapidly-spreading trend is probably connected to the death of a Virginia first-grader, who died of cardiac arrest in a hospital after eating a nut on a playground. Experts, in that case, speculated that the girl would still be alive if the school had retained an Epi-Pen on hand.
Dr. Michael Pistiner, a pediatric allergist, said of the new trend that “Epinephrine is the first line treatment for these severe reactions… Studies show that delays in treatment with epinephrine increase risk of death.”
The laws apply quite differently across the states: while Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska, and Nevada are the only states to require epinephrine doses to be kept on hand, most of the other states merely allow Epi-Pens to be stored at school.