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Life Lessons: Epi-pens

Published On: Jan 27 2014 04:13:53 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 27 2014 06:34:02 AM CST

Life Lessons Epi-pen

With the new year comes a new federal law urging schools to better protect kids with severe food allergies.

Studies show since 1997 the number of kids with food allergies has gone up 50 percent .

This new law asks schools to stock life saving epinephrine or so called epi-pens for any child who might need it.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act will offer schools incentives to keep epinephrine injectors on hand in case of an emergency.

Epinephrine is a life-saving medicine that can reverse the effects of a severe allergic reaction to food, but only if it’s injected within the first few minutes.

As a doctor in an emergency department, Dr. Sarah Denny has treated dozens of children who have had severe allergic reactions to food.

As a mother, she’s had to do the same. When her son Liam was a toddler he had a sudden and life-¬threatening reaction to soy.

“We could hear our ambulance on the way, I ran out to the curb with Liam in my arms to wait for them, and as I looked down at him, he was just pale, unconscious and lifeless,” recalls Dr. Denny.

Moments before, Dr. Denny’s husband injected their son with a dose of Epinephrine and in these situations, can be the only thing that can save a child’s life.

The Dennys say they’re lucky the incident happened at home, where they had epinephrine, but that’s not always the case.

Dr. David Stukus of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital says many children have problems with allergic reactions outside the home. He says, “About 25% of children who have their first episode of a severe allergic reaction to a food, it occurs inside the school setting.”

Dr. Stukus is an allergist and also a strong supporter of the new law which will put more injectors into our schools.

Until now, it was up to parents to take epinephrine injectors to their child’s school. In an emergency, the school nurse could use them - but only on a child who brought in his or her own.

The new law urges schools to keep extra injectors on hand, for anyone who might need them.

“Food allergies have increased by about 50% in the last decade alone. Currently, approximately 2 to 6% of all children have some form of food allergy, and if you think about that, that’s really about 1-2 children in every classroom in America on
average,” says Dr. Stukus.

It's a growing danger Dr. Denny knows all too well which is why she supports the new law.

“Not only will it save lives, but I think that this will also raise awareness on food allergies and how dangerous and severe they really can be,” she says.