Lately it seems like the most dangerous threats are the ones we can’t see. Earlier this month the Northwestern School of Medicine and Chicago Public Schools discovered that more than 38 CPS students and administrators were treated with emergency medication related to severe allergy reactions during the 2012-2013 academic year, requiring treatment through the use of emergency EAIs (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, more commonly known as EpiPens). Ninety two percent of those treated were students and almost half of the people involved had no known history of allergies. In many cases, the reactions proved to be life threatening.
State and federal lawmakers have wrestled with the idea of stockpiling epinephrine in schools for years. Only recently have they made strides to improve access to epinephrine medication. In November of 2013, President Obama signed a bipartisan bill that offers financial incentives for states, so long as schools in those states carry epinpephrine medication. Almost every state in the U.S., with the exception of New Hampshire, according to Food Allergy Medication & Research, Inc., has passed or is considering legislation that would require or improve access to epinephrine stockpiles. Just last year, according to the Daily Northwestern, 41 states passed policies encouraging schools to stock EAI medication.
This latest finding by Northwestern underscores the necessity of preparedness. CPS is one of the first urban school districts to carry EAI medication in its public and charter schools, a fact that may once been considered a rarity. In the cases of children, allergies have been on the rise. Roughly 1 in 13 kids has some type of food allergy, averaging out to roughly two kids per classroom.
On November 3, Tricia Prebil, a local school nurse, was honored by her school district for treating a school bus driver who suffered a life-threatening allergy reaction, says the Chicago Tribune. Prebil used an EpiPen, which wouldn’t have been possible just a few short months ago. Before August 1 of 2014, EpiPens admins were only allowed to use EpiPens for students who previously had medical approval.
EpiPens have been available for more than 25 years. Between 1987 – 2013 roughly 47 million auto-injectors have been dispensed, according to data from IMS Health.