In Arizona, new legislation has been proposed that would make schools do more to protect students with serious food allergies. Advocates for the new policy say it could prevent severe, sometimes life-threatening reactions in school cafeterias and classrooms.
No statistics are available concerning the number of kids in Arizona with food allergies, but one national study estimated that as many as 4 in every 100 children may have food allergies. In many elementary schools, snacks, treats, and lunches are brought from home, posing a problem for the growing number of kids with allergies.
The Arizona Food Allergy Alliance, state Senator Linda Lopez (D-Tucson), and many parents say that schools are not well equipped to handle anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Lisa Horne, president of the Arizona Food Allergy Alliance, commented “It comes down to reducing the risk of a reaction and treating it immediately.” Her organization is working towards legislation that would require Arizona’s schools to have epinephrine on hand to treat allergic reactions.
The proposed legislation would require schools to have epinephrine that could be given to any child experiencing a severe allergic reaction while at school, not just those children who already have their own prescription for epinephrine. Schools currently do not stock the drug, although students with severe allergies are allowed to bring their own EpiPen to school, if they have been prescribed one. Allergy advocates say that having medicine available, especially for students with no history of allergic reactions, is the first step to ensuring student safety.
Part of a National Effort
Arizona’s proposed law is similar to other laws that have been proposed across the country. So far, only Virginia and Nebraska require schools to have epinephrine. Other states allow schools to stock the medication and to use it on a student who does not have a prescription, but do not require it.