(Doylestown, PA) – The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) today applauded Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett for signing legislation that allows Pennsylvania schools to protect children and adults from potentially life-threatening allergies. House Bill (H.B.) 803 permits schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine – a medication proven to slow the effects of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) – and directs these schools to designate and train school employees to administer the medication in an emergency.
H.B. 803 updates Pennsylvania law, which previously did not allow schools to store epinephrine for emergency use and did not protect school employees from liability if they administered the medication. While students with known allergies could carry and self-administer epinephrine, students with undiagnosed allergies and those without their own epinephrine were unprotected.
“We know that 25 percent of the allergic reactions experienced at school happen to children with undiagnosed allergies,” said Lynda Mitchell, Founder and Vice President of KidsWith Food Allergies (KFA), a division of AAFA which is based in Pennsylvania. “Allowing schools to store and administer epinephrine in an emergency has been proven to save lives. This law will help schools ensure that all students, not just those who have been previously diagnosed, are protected from potentially life-threatening allergies.”
According to CDC guidelines, 16 to 18 percent of children with diagnosed allergies have experienced a reaction at school, and 25 percent of all reactions experienced at school involve children with previously undiagnosed allergies. Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction, which can be triggered by allergies to certain foods, medications, latex or insect bites and stings. Symptoms include severe hives, swelling that can block airways, other breathing problems such as asthma attacks, or even a significant drop in blood pressure. Epinephrine is the medication indicated by medical experts as the only first-line treatment for these types of severe allergic reactions.
With prompt use, epinephrine is highly effective at treating anaphylaxis, and any delays in use can increase the risk of poor outcomes and even lead to death. Epinephrine auto-injectors are easy to use, quick to administer and low-cost to maintain adequate supplies. The facts are simple: when available and used appropriately, epinephrine auto-injectors can save lives.
New Jersey is currently considering similar legislation and California recently passed a law requiring schools to stock at least one EpiPen.