Senators Kirk, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Protect School Children with Allergies

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 12, 2013.  U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) 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.

“Millions of kids across the US are at risk from potential allergic attacks while at school,” Senator Kirk said. “When children are exposed to a severe allergen, swift and safe administration of epinephrine can be life-saving. Our bill provides qualified, trained staff the ability to prevent an allergy-related fatality by administering an epinephrine injection immediately. I will continue to work with Senator Durbin and my colleagues to ensure our children stay safe in school.”

“For the 50 million young people across the country, the public school they attend every day 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. In some cases, the consequences of exposure to the wrong food can be fatal. But more often than not, the worst case is preventable,” Senator Durbin said. “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 and my Senate colleagues to ensure that we’re taking every appropriate step to protect kids in their schools.”

Today’s legislation is cosponsored by: Senators Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Min.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

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 review civil liability laws and certify that they are adequate. The bill also requires those states require schools to have a plan for having trained personnel to administer epinephrine at the school during hours of operation. These states would be granted preference for asthma-related grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We would like to thank Sens. Durbin and Kirk for their strong support of this legislation, and we encourage their fellow senators to show their own support by co-sponsoring the bill,” said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of FARE. “We hope that one day, every school in the nation is stocked with epinephrine. We know that epinephrine saves lives, and that allergic reactions can occur at any time and without warning. We look forward to approval of this legislation in the Senate so that it can be signed into law by the President.”

In 2011, 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 states to decide if all trained school personnel – not just school nurses – can 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 President of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology wrote: “It is critically important that epinephrine auto-injectors are readily available to school personnel who may be present when an anaphylactic reaction occurs. This is important not only for students and staff with severe allergies to foods but also those at risk of anaphylaxis to bee stings, latex, or other allergens.” The letter continued, “The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology believes that your bill is in the best interest of children at risk of anaphylaxis while at school, and we are pleased to offer our endorsement for this important legislation.”

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.

In a separate letter to Durbin and Kirk, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote: “Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal allergic reaction, but can be prevented with proper planning and treated with promptly administered medication. Caring for a child at risk for anaphylaxis requires a comprehensive management plan developed with the child’s family in the medical home. Schools play a significant role in implementing this management plan.” The letter continued, “We are pleased to support the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to improve the health of all our nation’s children.”

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is supported by the Food Allergy Research and Education, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.