A total of 919 anaphylactic episodes occurred in schools last year, according to a new survey of schools participating in the EpiPen4Schools program. This program, offered by Mylan Specialty, provides free epinephrine auto-injectors to qualifying schools in the U.S. Results of this survey were provided during a poster presentation at the recent meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Out of the 5,683 responding schools, 10 percent had 1 to 2 cases of anaphylaxis occur within the 2013-2014 school year, meaning more than 1 in 10 schools had to respond to a severe allergic reaction on school grounds.
Importantly, in 22 percent of cases, anaphylaxis occurred in students or staff members with no known allergies. These individuals had no reason to believe they would be susceptible to having an allergic reaction, and therefore would not have a prescribed epinephrine auto-injector on hand. These schools all had stock auto-injectors on hand, provided by the EpiPen4 Schools program, which were used to treat 310 cases of anaphylaxis in schools that year.
Ensuring that schools have access to epinephrine auto-injectors for emergency use has been a priority for FARE for several years. We have worked with advocates and legislators in many states. Our work in Illinois in 2011 was influential in the introduction of the federal School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act by Senators Durbin and Kirk. Championed by many advocates including FARE, and signed by President Obama on Nov. 13, 2013, this bill provides financial incentives to states that require their schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors. Eight states now require epinephrine while another 38 states have laws or guidelines allowing for epinephrine to be stocked in schools.
FARE is thrilled that this life-saving medication is now available to be used in schools across the country. While students and staff with known allergies should always have two prescribed auto-injectors on hand, it has been proven that undesignated auto-injectors play an important role in treating reactions for the previously undiagnosed or individuals with allergies who may not have immediate access to their medication.
One of the most compelling findings of the survey is that nearly 50 percent of students who experienced anaphylaxis were in high school. Research shows that teens are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors when it comes to their food allergies, and teens are at the highest risk for fatal reactions.
Additional findings of the survey include:
- A second epinephrine injection was given in 9 percent of cases, emphasizing the need for individuals to carry two prescribed auto-injectors with them at all times, as well as the need to have extra auto-injectors on hand in case the need arises.
- In 36 percent of schools, a limited number of adults (only the school nurse and select staff) were trained on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and administer epinephrine.
- Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis; however, 157 anaphylactic episodes were reportedly treated with antihistamines only instead of epinephrine.
- Symptoms may return after the initial treatment of anaphylaxis, so it is imperative to transport the person to the hospital for observation. This survey showed that 20 percent of patients were not taken to the hospital, suggesting that further education is needed on this treatment step. FARE has recently launched an initiative to help educate emergency medical professionals about how to enhance the treatment of anaphylaxis.
The results of this survey are encouraging in that they show that stock epinephrine saves lives – making the additional time and effort it takes to maintain a supply of the devices well worth it. They also underscore the need for more training and education about the identification and proper treatment of anaphylaxis. To learn more about the EpiPen4Schools program, go to www.epipen4schools.com.
Disclosure: Mylan Specialty is one of FARE’s corporate partners. This post is not sponsored and contains no affiliate links. Please note that FARE does not review, test, sponsor, endorse or recommend any products or services that may appear on our website or blog.