Monday, January 13, 2014

EpiPens for Allergic Reactions in Emergency Situations: Keeping Kids Safe

Photo by Michael Cavazos, LNJ
Adapted from an article by Richard Yeakley ryeakley@news-journal.com
View entire article at the Longview News Journal website.

A federal law that went into effect this month encourages school districts to keep epinephrine injections — or EpiPens — in stock to help children having an allergic reaction. 

Fulfilling that directive is easy for the Pine Tree schools, who have provided access for several years.  All employees of Pine Tree are trained annually on how at administer one if needed.

Knowing how to use an EpiPen is important. Doctors are seeing more and more children with allergies, especially food allergies. Due to the unpredictable nature of allergic reactions, epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens) are prescribed.  EpiPens deliver medicine quickly and effectively. No child has ever had serious problems from a standard dose of epinephrine when using an EpiPen.

The federal law, known as the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, was signed into law Nov. 13 and gave preferences for grants to states that permitted schools to stock EpiPens and train school employees on how to use the devices.

A check with a local pharmacy Wednesday found EpiPens cost about $190 each.

The spare injections, which school districts like Pine Tree ISD and Hallsville ISD have on hand, are for students who have not been diagnosed with an allergy if they experience a reaction.

Jan Goldberg, lead nurse for Pine Tree ISD, said the extra EpiPens have never been used at campuses in the district.

“We were not concerned about the students who had the known allergies. We were concerned about the students that did not know and come in contact with something and have an emergency reaction,” Goldberg said.  There is one shot on each campus and one for the athletic department that travels with teams.  Goldberg said, if needed, a shot from a spare EpiPen will be given to a student following orders given by the doctor who wrote the prescription allowing the district to keep the devices in stock.

Before giving the shot, the district will attempt to notify the student’s parents and will not give the shot if the parents do not approve it.  After giving the shot, the district will call 911 for the student.  

Hallsville ISD has had the devices for about seven years.  Like Pine Tree ISD, Hallsville’s have never been needed, said Paula Bure, the director of health services for the district.

“When I came to the district ... (the doctor) agreed that because we were so far out away from hospitals and did not have a professional ambulance service ... we needed the shots,” Bure said.  At that time the district was supported by a “very reliable volunteer service.”  Bure said training to use EpiPens in the district is universal.

“Every school year, all of our staff on every campus goes through anaphylactic training,” Bure said. “My ladies are very diligent about making sure that their campus personnel know where they and how to use them.”

While more schools continue to stock the drugs for worst-case scenarios, Bure said the responsibility is ultimately still on the parent.   “It is still the parents’ responsibility to provide for the school what is needed for the child during the day,” she said.

To learn more about allergies and EpiPens, visit:http://bit.ly/SxCtmD

For more information Nationwide Children's Hospital's allergy clinic, visit:http://bit.ly/Y1qSi3

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