State anaphylaxis emergency preparedness laws are changing nationwide to ensure schools have policies in place to address situations in which a student is suddenly found in the throes of an attack without an epinephrine auto-injector. But not all school districts have updated their policies or are aware when discrepancies exist.
With anaphylaxis, rapid treatment saves lives. Delay of treatment while figuring out what to do or which policy to follow can result in death, which is exactly what prompted Sandra Lawinger, RN, school district nurse, Glen Ellyn, Ill. to take action.
Community Consolidated School District 89 students with a history of anaphylaxis were encouraged to carry their own epinephrine auto-injectors to and from school each day. In the event of an emergency, policies were clear that the student could self-administer the device or obtain assistance.
However, should a student forget his epinephrine auto-injector or a student experience his first episode of anaphylaxis at school, a school nurse could only call 911 and the parents, even though other prescription devices for use by other students may be available.
Lawinger knew, however, that the Illinois state legislature had recently passed a law allowing schools to carry stock epinephrine. She saw the opportunity to update her school district’s policy. In November 2012, Lawinger gave an AANMA Anaphylaxis Community Experts™ presentation before the board of education and recommended updating the policy.
“It’s a critical issue because 25 percent of kids who experience anaphylaxis are not previously diagnosed. Seventy-nine percent of reactions occur in classrooms and the number of students with allergies increases every year,” Lawinger says. “So it’s important to be compliant with the law. I wanted to provide that level of care for our students.”
After the presentation, the school board authorized Lawinger to write the policy to address how schools in the district would stock a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors for use in emergency situations. The new policy was implemented later that month. She even went the extra mile and obtained 10 free stock epinephrine auto-injectors – two for each school in her district – through Mylan Specialty’s EpiPen4Schools program.
(More information at www.epipen4schools.com.)
“We’re very fortunate in our district – our school board greatly respects the need to provide health and wellness support for the students,” Lawinger says. “They’re supportive of the idea that healthy children learn better.”
Lawinger has been at the forefront of food allergy policy in her school district. Using the training and knowledge learned in ACEs, she has educated school administrators and teachers how to recognize anaphylaxis symptoms and ways to prevent food-allergic reactions during school or school events.
Lawinger senses a “huge learning curve” in anaphylaxis awareness when talking with parents about the school district’s food allergy policies. It is improving – one parent at a time. The key is preventing accidental ingestion and using epinephrine right away to treat anaphylaxis. “We should never wait and see,” Lawinger says. “Anyone who experiences anaphylaxis needs prompt medical care.”
ACEs is a national, award-winning education, advocacy and outreach partnership program developed and hosted by Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, sponsored by Mylan Specialty, LP.
Reviewed by Andrea Holka