What does the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act mean?

Magnus Health
January 16, 2014
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What does the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act mean?

In 2011 Adrian Peterson, a rather well-known Pro-Bowler and Minnesota Vikings running back, ate a couple bowls of gumbo and 15 minutes later, his eyes began to itch, his throat began to close, and he could barely breathe. He was experiencing anaphylactic shock. Thankfully, the team trainer quickly arrived and injected Peterson with an EpiPen. After being rushed to the hospital, it was determined that Peterson has a shellfish allergy.   

Make note. 1) Peterson had eaten shellfish many times prior to this encounter, without ever having a reaction. 2) The trainer had epinephrine on hand, and was prepared for the event.

Imagine if the trainer weren’t there, or if he didn’t have the epinephrine. Peterson could have died. And that’s not an exaggeration. If you’re thinking this one event is an anomaly, you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, studies show that approximately 25% of anaphylaxis cases in children occur in children with a previously undiagnosed food allergy (Pediatrics). Further, from 1997-2007, of the 32 fatalities due to anaphylaxis among preschool- and school-aged children in the U.S., nine were primarily due to delays in epinephrine administration (Pediatrics).

These stats, and stories like Peterson’s, contributed to the development and passing of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. The newly signed act was championed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) and “provides incentives to the individual states to enact “stock” epinephrine laws and the requisite Good Samaritan laws designed to shield well-meaning individuals from liability in the event they administer epinephrine to someone experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis.”

According to FARE, “In addition to protecting those whose epinephrine auto-injector isn’t immediately accessible during a reaction, this legislation will help save the lives of those who experience an anaphylactic reaction and don’t have a prescribed epinephrine auto-injector.”

USAnaphylaxis_1_15_13This map of the United States shows, as of January 2014, where each state stands on adoption of epinephrine laws. You’ll notice, we’re on our way, but nine states still have pending legislation, and 13 are without any legislation. 

So, even though the new act provides incentives, it obviously doesn’t mean every state will rush out and comply. It’s up to the people to encourage state governments to adopt school stock epinephrine legislation so that the Petersons of the world can be saved when an unknown allergy presents itself.

School nurses and teachers must be able to speak with parents and students, have meaningful conversations, and come up with a game plan for understanding and managing food allergies, and preparing for anaphylaxis. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN), with help from the Centers for Disease Control, Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, and the National School Boards Association provide a Tool Kit that can help in this very important school goal.

Download our Food Allergy Considerations for Schools research paper for more information on managing allergies in a school setting.