Governor Steve Beshear today ceremonially signed House Bill 172, a measure to encourage schools to keep emergency medication on hand for children who can suffer severe, life-threatening allergic reactions.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Addia K. Wuchner, of Florence, encourages schools to keep epinephrine pens on the premises. These pens are used in emergencies to inject potentially lifesaving medication if a student suffers an allergic reaction, such as to a food like peanuts.
"If this legislation can help save a child who has a life-threatening allergy, it's well worth it," Gov. Beshear said. "Whether they're at school or at home, we want kids to be safe, and to have access to medicine that can be vital in emergency situation."
"Even if you are a nurse, watching a child suffer from a life-threatening emergency is extremely frightening. I lived that nightmare several years ago as I carried our grandson into the ER in anaphylactic shock from a previously unknown food allergy," said Rep. Wuchner, who is also a nurse. "Many Kentucky children who may unknowingly suffer from food allergies are at risk of a life-threatening emergency at school. House Bill 172 provides the assurance for families and safeguard for students in Kentucky schools with known severe allergies and those with yet undiagnosed allergies that the policy, procedures and training for use of stocked epinephrine auto injectors in Kentucky schools are in place. This common-sense piece of legislation is dedicated not only to my grandson, John Paul, but to each and every student who lives with life threatening allergies."
Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction. While rare -- most people will never have an anaphylactic reaction -- when they do occur, they can be life threatening. Some of the most common causes of anaphylaxis include certain drugs or foods such as peanuts, insect stings, latex, and exercise.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis may vary and can include hives, tongue swelling, vomiting, and even shock. Schoolchildren who have been diagnosed by a physician are often told to avoid foods and activities which could trigger a reaction. However, for children with a history of serious allergic reaction, always having an epinephrine injector pen available is important; it could save a life.
Children with a food allergy diagnosis are likely already carrying epinephrine pens to school. However, this legislation will help schools be prepared for situations where a child is unknown to have an allergy or has lost or misplaced or is otherwise unable to get to one they normally carry. Rep. Wuchner has worked with many stakeholders including the Department for Public Health.
The Department will provide assurance of consistent local health department protocols and administration training if so requested by the local school districts. The local health departments are always ready to collaborate with local practitioners and school districts to care for Kentucky's school children.