As the Staples commercial famously donned, September is "The most wonderful time of the year!" It's the time of the year where parents send their children to school with Transformer-clad notebooks, sharpened pencils, medications, and eager minds. Many school-aged children are going back to school with food allergies, so they and their parents will need to incorporate auto-injectable epinephrine medication as an item to include (brand names Epi-Pen and Twinject). Millions of children with food allergies are at risk for anaphylaxis, a severe, life threatening allergic reaction, which if not treated can lead to fatalities. Epinephrine, which should always be prescribed by a trained medical physician, is also known as adrenaline and is a naturally occurring hormone. It is a type of emergency medication to treat severe food allergy reactions. It is a sympathomimetic agent and it works by relaxing the muscles and tightening the blood vessels. When injected quickly and properly, it is able to stop an anaphylactic reaction.
Thankfully, in the past few years most states have passed legislation allowing students the right to carry auto-injectable epinephrine in their schools; however, nearly ten states still have not passed "right to carry" nor "right to administer" legislation. Even more shocking, a recent study revealed that most parents did not know that they could send their children to school with their auto-injectable epinephrine. While this may not seem crucial, a child's comfort level with their treatment and the timeliness in which the medicine is delivered could be the deciding factor between life and death. In multiple cases in which a fatality was reported as a result of anaphylaxis, the reasons behind the death are almost always that the child did not have their medication with them or it was administered too late; typically after a child has stopped breathing or gone unconscious. These unnecessary and tragic deaths simply demonstrate the fundamental importance of schools not only allowing children the right to carry, but informing parents that their children have this right.
As a parent, or concerned citizen of your state or local district if you find that "right to carry" legislation has not been passed, you should not only get in touch with your local school district, but also your congressional representatives and advocate for this legislation to be implemented. You can do so by phone, email, writing letters to the editor or op-eds to neighborhood and county papers. However, it is important to remember that even if legislation is passed in your child's school district, it is essential that ALL parents and guardians are aware of their child's rights. Children must be taught how to properly administer their auto-injectable epinephrine by a medical professional, and made to feel comfortable with carrying one with them at all times.
So, parents, while you send your children off to begin their educational journey, make sure you are equipped with as much knowledge as possible, so that you and your child can make this school year a safe and healthy one.