Legislation with the potential to save young lives will be introduced in 2013 in our state. As a nurse I will support it wholeheartedly and will urge others to do the same. It will allow the stocking of epinephrine auto injectors in Arizona schools — similar to legislation passed in Virginia; pursued after the death of a 6-year-old student from anaphylactic shock while at school.
Not only will the legislation give public schools in Arizona the right to stock epinephrine auto-injectors; it will make them available to any child on campus for life-threatening allergic reactions to foods and insect stings. More, it can be done with the support of programs already in place that help schools with such initiatives, like ones offered through pharmaceutical companies that provide epinephrine auto-injectors at no cost to schools. In Virginia, three lives have already been saved because of it, including a boy who was stung by a bee on the bus ride home from school.
Some medical literature indicates that allergies are on the rise. Knowing this, it seems that “unexpected” reactions in a school, or a public place could be more common. This was the case for my granddaughter who had no known allergies until one day she had to be whisked away to the emergency room, struggling to breathe because of a reaction to something she ate.
Recently, a high school girl in Canada with no history of allergies had a reaction while at school and helped save her own life by texting a friend from the bathroom where she was experiencing a “first reaction.” Luckily another student had a prescribed epinephrine auto injector in the nurse’s office, so school officials used it to intervene and save the girl’s life. The father credited the school for its quick thinking in saving his daughter.
Unknown allergies were also highlighted in a recent study by Pediatrics noting that 22 percent of the individuals who were treated with epinephrine at a school district in Massachusetts did not know they were allergic.
In recent years, food allergies have captured the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reporting that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children under the age of 18. Each year in the U.S., it is estimated that anaphylaxis caused by food results in 150 to 200 deaths. Death can be sudden, sometimes occurring within minutes.
Arizona shouldn’t wait for the death of a child to take action on this important issue. One child is one too many when it comes to preventable death or injury. Supporting legislation that will help schools potentially save the life of a child is the right thing to do.
Learn more and access informational resources and guides at http://www.arizonafoodallergy.org.
• Carolyn Adams, RN, is a member of the Arizona Food Allergy Alliance.