Friday, April 17, 2015

Bill Protects Schoolchildren From Life-Threatening Allergic Reactions

Thirteen-year-old Cameron Espinosa, a middle school student in Corpus Christi, died after being stung by fire ants while playing football after school in September 2013. No one, including Cameron, knew he was allergic to fire ants before the incident; if they had, Cameron might have had a prescription for epinephrine at school.

Texas does not require schools to stock epinephrine unless it's prescribed for a specific student, but that could change if the legislature passes House Bill 2847 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton). The bill would force schools to stock unassigned epinephrine injectors that could be used on anyone in an emergency. The injectors — often called EpiPens after a popular brand of epinephrine injector — would allow coaches, school nurses, and other trained staff to immediately treat students who, like Cameron did, suffer a severe and unexpected allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis.

“This legislation is a significant achievement in protecting our young Texans at risk of anaphylaxis, by providing lifesaving epinephrine,” Louise Bethea, MD, an allergist and immunologist from The Woodlands, said in her testimony to the House Committee on Public Education.

Dr. Bethea told the committee severe allergic reactions can be caused by insect stings, medications, latex, and food allergies. “An estimated one in 13 U.S. children — about 160,000 in Texas — have food allergies. Up to 25 percent of children could have a serious reaction without having a history or diagnosis of food allergy,” she said.

“Emergencies happen everywhere in our communities, including schools. For many children, their first episode of anaphylaxis may occur at school, and because they have no history, they will not have available a prescribed auto-injector. To protect our students, our physicians have stepped up and starting working with their local school districts to raise awareness about anaphylaxis and provide training on epinephrine auto-injectors. This legislation not only will strengthen that effort in raising awareness, but also will allow for students throughout Texas to have access to epinephrine for an anaphylactic emergency.

“Seconds matter,” said Dr. Bethea. “Anaphylaxis can be fatal, and epinephrine immediately is the treatment of choice.”

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