School nurses are accustomed to caring for injured or sick students, handing out bandages and ice packs and ensuring children receive their prescribed medications during the school day. But many school nurses are ill prepared to deal with allergic reactions, because often there is nothing they can do without a doctor’s order.

For a child suffering from a severe allergic reaction, access to the emergency medication contained in an EpiPen could be mean the difference between life and death. For this reason, parents and school nurses throughout the state of Ohio are urging lawmakers to pass a law requiring every school to have EpiPens in the school nurse’s office to be used for any student suffering from an allergic reaction. The medication could be used even if that student does not have a prescription for it.

Often, children experience their first allergic reaction while at school, and there’s no previous diagnosis of allergies or prescribed EpiPen to stop the attack. Maureen Knowles, a registered nurse and member of the Ohio Association of School Nurses, explains “Currently, if I have epinephrine for child X, I can only administer it to that child. We’d like to be able to administer it to any child having a true anaphylactic reaction, with or without an order.”

Similar Laws in Other States

The effort in Ohio follows similar laws recently passed in other states. In Virginia, a law requiring schools to have EpiPens on hand took effect earlier this month. The proposed Ohio law would require training for school administrators and teachers on how to use the EpiPens, as well as how to spot the signs of an anaphylactic reaction.

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