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Epi Pens in Public Schools

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When my child had a reaction at school they were on the playground. The playground aid thought she was having an asthma attack, so did the nurse because my child could not speak since she could not breath, could not say her name so they did not know who she was and could not access her medical info to see she had a peanut allergy. After this incident the school put a picture of my child on their epi pen box.

I am an elementary school teacher in Hawaii. Epipens must be brought in by the parents and held in the health room. There are many holes in this system. For example, only by personal insistence at my local school have I been able to get the kids with life threatening conditions labeled with a red dot on their badge. We have a state system so all schools should be the same..but they are not. When the health room aide is absent, the only other person that can use the pens is the principal. He is often not at school or is out of the office. There is no school wide policy of how to get coverage for the epipens. Epipens must be administered quickly but that wont work if they have to chase down the people able to get in the cabinet and administer the shot. I think the state of Hawaii is remiss in developing a plan to address this life threatening condition. I would venture to guess that we are not the only state with this problem.

Question of the Week: Answered!

Every week, answers one of the questions posted in our community.

Our Answer:

There is growing concern about the preparation for allergies in schools. Since this issue deserves more attention, it’s great that you’ve taken interest in schools’ management of EpiPens.

Unfortunately, a study found that most of America’s schools are ill-prepared for dealing with allergy attacks. You can read more about those statistics here.

Furthermore, students with food allergies should have an emergency plan because children are more vulnerable at school. It is critical for them to be prepared because they may try foods for the first time at school. You can learn more about what these emergency plans specify here.

Fortunately, laws requiring schools to stock epinephrine injectors are being passed in more states. Another study found that schools having autoinjectors saves lives. You can learn about the findings of this study here.

Some emergency services are beginning to replace the EpiPen with a cheaper alternative. You can find out if this cheaper alternative is just as effective and learn more about it here.

We asked our Facebook community to share their stories and here’s what they had to say.

We hope you find this information useful. Best of luck with your report!

i am a parent of a 15 year old PA & TN boy that lives in the midwest in Illinois. we have attended both private and public schools. The privatte school was less aware of allergens and did not want to make it thier priority. For High school our school is not aware of how to handle this allergen but any time I call the school they always go to the nurse and further educate themselves before contacting me back. Our nurse is now going to start giving mini classes at all the teacher meetings too get all staff members caught up on this growing allergen in the schools. i am very pleased that our school is making all allergies in the school a priority at this point since the lack of awareness is there. That being said I do still have to make sure that I am always on top of it at all times. As for the Epi pen my son has always been allowed to carry one on him and the other in the office. They did not want him to carry it but with a doctors note there was little they could do. also all his teachers are taught by the nurse on how to use it properly. By the end of the year all staff will know how to handle all the allergens within the school along with those that may happen in the future. I hope that all schools in the future teach those that are responsible for our children to protect those that have a hidden disability.

One problem Other ""allergy parents"" and I used to come up against was having the EpiPens locked-up in the health room, and inside a locked cabinet. 9 years ago, the nurse was not at school the entire day, which was a challenge for any medical emergency outside of the nurses hours, when time and access to treatment are critical. We voiced our concerns to the administration, but were only taken seriously when, during a meeting between the principal and a few of us ""allergy parents,"" The principal went to check on the EpiPen supply, and was able to unlock and get into the health room, but could not get the cabinet of medications, where the EpiPens were also locked, to open--with the correct key. Not only were the Emergency treatment medications moved into a different storage cabinet, which was out-of-reach of elementary school students but unlocked, but within a year the district change their policy to have a full-time school nurse, present during all regular school hours, in every elementary school. And Food allergy training for health room staff, and many others, became standard as well.

We found out our now 10 year old son is allergic to peanuts when my wife decided to have him tested due to the fact that she had two brothers who are PA. He reacted very strongly to the scratch test. Ever since, we have been ultra careful and, knock on wood, hes never had a reaction.

We carry an Epipen everywhere and made sure his classroom teacher, afterschool program, and office have them (which we have always had to buy). Our school is not officially Peanut Free, but the principal has sent reminders to parents not to send peanut butter sandwiches to school with their kids to respect the safety of PA kids, but some parents dont listen

I am a teacher and have multiple anaphylactic allergies and my son is anaphylactic to nuts. I have to say that the schools I have been involved with are very well informed as I do a lot of the staff training. I think people have to be aware of what the schools responsibility is and enforce it. Two years ago I had a severe reaction. I was unconscious and had a seizure. If it wasnt for the quick thinking of my principal I would be dead. In my experience those who deal with this in their personal lives are far more understanding then those who do not. But like most things people have to advocate for themselves or their child or else nothing will happen.

Hello my name is Renee Branco. I live in Murrieta Ca. I have a 5 year old son who I can not put in school out here.He has a severe peanut allergy. All of the schools here serve and allow peanut butter. They will not get rid of it. This did not happen at school. My son almost passed way from touching a cran with peanut butter oil on it. You could not see anything on the cran,but could smell peanut butter oil on them. He touch one,got very itchy and started rubbed his eyes. The peanut butter oil,went in his system threw the eye. All of the schools out here will not give him the epi pen if something like this were to happen. They say, he has to give it to himself.They are only allowed to guide him to give to himself. How can a 5 year old, who is fainting from blood pressure dropping,while vomitting,eyes swelling shut,lips getting huge , while his throat is closing HELP HIMSELF!! Please investigate Murrieta schools and the district.

That sounds awful, Renee! I would go directly to the school board or superintendent, and tell them this will be brought up as an ADA issue. I cant imagine why a school would act so horribly and totally backwards!

I live in the midwest and have a son with severe allergy to peanuts. We recently had this discussion at a support meeting I attended that had an allergist as a guest speaker. He said something that opened my eyes to managing epi-pens. The parents expressed concern about epis being stored in the nurses office when they are so far away from the classrooms where food is sometimes consumed. He said stand in the spot where the child is consuming the food and run to the area where the epi is stored...without breathing...If you cant make it, neither can a child who is experiencing a life threatening reaction. Im going to order a bunch more of epis and ensure they are in the same room that my son would potentially consume food. What can a few more epis hurt?

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