A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants all public, private and parochial schools to have supplies of a small device that could save a child’s life.
Introduced by state Sen. Matt Smith, D-Allegheny, the legislation would require all schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, which inject adrenaline to slow down an allergic reaction. Smith said the device could help school employees deal with a potentially-fatal situation.
“It can be a matter of minutes between the exposure to the food allergy and the student going into anaphylactic shock, which sometimes can result in death,” he said.
The legislation is prompted by the rising number of children with food allergies and the incidence of life-threatening allergic reactions, said Smith. A constituent with a daughter who has a food allergy brought the issue to his attention.
“The number of children with food allergies and the incidence of life-threatening allergic reaction to food in schools are rising and schools are supposed to be a very safe place for children,” he said.
While funding is always a concern, he said, the potential to save a child’s life far outweighs the cost.
“Many companies that distribute or manufacture EpiPens, for instance in Western Pennsylvania, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, offer low-cost EpiPens to school districts because they view it as a priority as well,” he said. “So there is a cost-effective way.”
Smith said the legislation closes a gap in the system because it would help protect children who forget to bring an EpiPen to school or who have not been previously diagnosed with a food allergy. Under the legislation, employees from each school would be trained by the state Department of Health on how to use an EpiPen.
In a school without a nurse, other trained school employees would be able to step in. The legislation protects trained school employees who administer an EpiPen in good faith, from any liability issues.