New law helps schools cope with food allergies

May 24, 2012

Maryland public schools will all soon be keeping emergency supplies of epinephrine on hand for students who may have an allergic reaction, and patient advocates are applauding the new law.

“Receiving a dose of epinephrine in the critical minutes following exposure to a food allergen can mean the difference between life and death,” said Susan Sweitzer, executive director of the Maryland-DC Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, in a statement. “While many students in Maryland public schools already carry epinephrine auto-injectors, or keep a prescribed supply with the teacher or nurse, many others don’t have a prescription or even know that they are allergic to anything.”

The Maryland General Assembly passed the law this year and the governor signed it this week. It allows school officials trained to identify and treat severe reaction to administer the medication, rather than just those who already have a prescription.

The allergy foundation says about a quarter of reactions happen in students with no diagnosis of allergies. The epinephrine can slow the effects of their reaction, which gives the students time to get to a hospital.

Virginia recently passed a similar law, after a first-grader died from an allergic reaction to a peanut.

The foundation says the states are responding to an increase in childhood food allergies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 25 kids has a food allergy and the number jumped 18 percent fro 1997 to 2007.

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