EpiPens in N.C. Schools Aim to Protect Children from Allergic Reaction
epipen for allergic reactions
Parents of children with life-threatening allergies breathed a sigh of relief as school began in Charlotte this year, thanks to a new requirement that North Carolina schools keep epinephrine on hand in case of life-threatening allergic reactions.
State law now requires K-12 schools to have at least two epinephrine auto-injectors, the most popular of which are known as EpiPens, on campus. The law, which was part of a budget bill passed in late summer, also requires that at least one person at the school receive annual training in how to recognize allergic reactions and to use the devices durijng episodes of anaphylaxis.
“It’s not a benign medication, not the equivalent of giving Benadryl," says to Dr. Charles Atkinson, a family physician with the highly rated Novant Medical Group Lakeside Family Physicians in Mooresville. He says hives or a rash would not be a reason to use an EpiPen, which delivers medicine directly into the bloodstream to halt a severe allergic reaction.
"It should only be given when someone is also calling 911," he says. "You’d use it if you’re seeing swelling to the face, eyelids, ears, mouth or a patient having trouble breathing or swallowing.”
Atkinson is not only a local family physician but also the father of a girl with a severe peanut allergy. He's one of many parents and doctors glad to know that schools will have the potentially life-saving treatment on hand. The North Carolina Pediatric Society also supported the bill.
“Research has shown that over a two-year period, schools can expect 18 percent of kids who have allergies to have at least one reaction in a year,” Atkinson says. “And 1 per 800,000 children per year have a fatal anaphylaxis episode.”
The emergency allergy-medicine provision may be especially helpful for a child who doesn’t know he or she has a severe allergy and may not have an allergy prescription and an EpiPen at school.
“Is there a chance child gets it that didn’t need it?” Atkinson says. “Yes, but we could deal with that and would rather that than not save the one who needs it.”