Bill allows for allergy treatment in every school

April 11, 2011 6:33:47 PM PDT
The Illinois House was expected to vote on a bill Tuesday designed to change how EpiPens are used by students experiencing an allergic reaction while they are in school.

Currently in the state, students can carry and inject themselves with epinephrine. But school nurses, teaches, and others cannot administer the injections or keep a supply of them in schools.

Eli Jobrack is 5 1/2. Wherever he goes, be it with mom and dad, his sitter, or to school, there is always an adult with an EpiPen and knowledge of how to use it-- because Eli has a peanut allergy.

"He was 14 months old, and we went to eat at a Thai restaurant and he had a small piece of chicken that had been cooked in peanut oil, and within about 90 seconds he turned ashen and had difficulty breathing," said Eli's mom Jennifer Jobrack.

If a child with a food allergy goes into anaphylactic shock, it is the EpiPen -- needle through clothing -- that can be the life saver.

Eli's mom and others think the state's schools, public and private, should have EpiPens available for the school nurse or other trained personnel to use if an emergency presents itself.

"As you can imagine, a child may forget their EpiPen at home, or an adult may forget to replace it and it may be expired," said Children's Memorial pediatric nurse Christine Szychlinski. "To have an EpiPen provided by school will assure that all children who have food allergies will be safe."

State legislators are getting set to vote on a bill that would allow schools to have EpiPens at the ready.

Proponents say there is a clear need today because there has been, for reasons unknown, a dramatic jump in the number of children with severe allergies to foods like peanuts, shellfish, and eggs, and that 25 percent of them will have their first allergic reaction -- unexpectedly -- in school.

"And what we wanna do is make sure that if a child is having an allergic reaction there is an EpiPen, there in our ability to give them the time they need to get to a hospital, get the treatment they need, and not die," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

It's called the Illinois School Access to Emergency Epinephrine act. It's patterned after an existing law in Missouri. It doesn't say schools must have EpiPens. It says that they may. It outlines who can administer, under what circumstances, and the necessary training requirements.

Cost could be an issue at a time of tight school budgeting, but the act doesn't say schools must pay, only that they may if they so choose.