EpiPen Safety:  How to Keep a Child Safe at School


Posted 2.25.10 | Nutrition Specialist

EpiPens, for any child with allergies, can be a huge life saver. However, sending your little one to school with their EpiPen can be rather stressful for a parent. There are a thousand questions that might go through your mind, “Will they be safe even with the EpiPen?” or “Will someone know how to use the EpiPen?”.

EpiPen and Anaphylactic Shock Basics

For those of you who don’t know, anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can be a life-threatening allergic reaction to specific triggers, such as food proteins and medication. This results in hives or swelling of the throat or tongue, which can lead to constricted airways and/or a dramatic drop in blood pressure.

An injection from an EpiPen is imperative when anaphylactic shock occurs and can save a person’s life. An EpiPen is a premeasured dose of epinephrine, which is injected into someone’s body during a severe allergic reaction to avoid or treat the onset and symptoms of anaphylactic shock, which provides a window of time to seek further medical attention. 1

EpiPens at Schools

If you are a parent of a child who is at risk for anaphylactic shock, you probably carry his or her EpiPen with you at all times, in case they are exposed to an allergen to which they are allergic. This is excellent for when you are with your child; however, your child could be exposed to many more allergens at school when you and your EpiPen aren’t there!

In fact, one study of children and adolescents found that 10 out of 13 fatal or near fatal anaphylactic reactions occurred outside the home. All the fatalities did not have an EpiPen and those who survived received an EpiPen shot before or within 5 minutes of developing severe symptoms.2

So, what does this mean? EpiPens can save lives! You need to ensure that the other adults who spend time with your child are trained and able to assist in any situation if you’re not around.

Don’t worry, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds! I suggest sitting down with your child’s teacher in the beginning of the school year to set up a 504 plan. This will ensure he or she receives proper care and attention when you aren’t there and that all adults that are around your child have the proper training to use an EpiPen if an emergency situation arises.

Also, there is good news for all you Massachusetts residents! Thanks to your persistent neighbors, starting March 2010, all newly hired school bus drivers in the state of Massachusetts will be required to have EpiPen training. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t mandate the existing school bus drivers to be trained; however, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully the other 49 states will follow suit. Good work Massachusetts!

How have you been able to ensure that your child is safe and can receive the proper care if they go into anaphylactic shock? Did it involve a 504 plan or EpiPen training?

- Nita

References:

1. www.epipen.com/
2. Sampson H, Mendelson L, Rosen J. Fatal and near-fatal anaphylactic reactions to food in children and adolescents. N Engl J Med. 1992;327:380-384.

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.