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Schools and Locked Up Epinephrine: A Dangerous Situation

Great work is done to pass legislation that supports safe, broad-based availability of epinephrine, resulting in more epinephrine in our schools. It is then discovered that much of that epinephrine...

Great work is done to pass legislation that supports safe, broad-based availability of epinephrine, resulting in more epinephrine in our schools. It is then discovered that much of that epinephrine is locked up in cabinets, rooms and buildings, far removed from those that might need it. Often the keys can’t be found. Read Jon’s thoughts on potentially dangerous gaps in implementation of legislation, where he refers to a recent article by Lianne Mandelbaum of No Nut Traveler for Allergic Living.

Epipen Inside in blue sans serif capital letters with medical symbol on left with blue and white banded banded borderUnlock the epinephrine!

By Jon Terry
March 6th, 2023

Work continues to ensure broad based availability of epinephrine for those managing life threatening allergies, especially in schools. In New York State, there is legislation allowing students to carry their own epinephrine, nurses to stock epinephrine and for everyone in the state to be trained and equipped to know when and how to administer epinephrine. As a result, there is more epinephrine available in the community for anaphylactic emergencies. However, much of this life saving drug currently stocked in schools is locked away in cabinets, other rooms, and even buildings and not readily available in an emergency. Often times, no one knows where the keys are. Because the timely administering of epinephrine in an emergency saves lives and the drug is harmless to everyone else, it makes no sense to keep it locked away in a school setting.

After a visit to her son’s school, Lianne Mandelbaum, founder of No Nut Traveler recently wrote an article for Allergic Living highlighting the problem and offering advice on how to keep your family safe in the school setting. keeping in mind that as usual, families managing life threatening allergies need to be vigilant at all levels of state, local and school policies to ensure ready access to epinephrine for their family members.

A lesson the advocacy community can learn from this situation is that after the hard work of getting legislation passed into law to make our communities safe, attention must also be paid to the implementation of legislation.

Currently, all fifty states allow students to self-carry their insulin, albuterol and epinephrine for treatment of diabetes, asthma and anaphylaxis.

Here in New York state, we have laws permitting school nurses to stock non-patient specific epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) devices in the nurse's office; 47 states in America also have similar laws.

As mentioned above, epinephrine is a safe medication; it’s always the first choice for the treatment of anaphylaxis emergencies. Yet prompt administration is often delayed; even when it is known that the medication is essential for treatment of dangerous allergic reaction. Because the needle can be frightening for some, the advocacy community can assist with implementation by providing accurate information, raising awareness and training everyone on how to administer an EAI device properly for everyone working in our schools.

There are opportunities for new legislation improving access to EAI devices in schools. One promising idea is requiring additional undesignated auto-injectors placed around school buildings. In the same way some municipalities require placement of automatic electronic defibrillator devices installed in hallways, gymnasiums and auditoriums, epinephrine would be added to that list.

Work is already underway to get these bills sponsored and passed in Albany. Save the date of May 2, when we will be in Albany Food Allergy Awareness Day NY. Stay tuned!

Best wishes to one and all!

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