Should schools stock EpiPens? Can administrators get to them fast enough?

A 7-year-old girl appears to have died from an allergic reaction to peanuts at her Virginia elementary school last week, according to news reports.

Ammaria Johnson’s mother knew the child had a peanut allergy and had an allergy action plan at the school.

From The Huffington Post:

” ‘She has an allergy action plan at the school,’ Pendleton told WTVR TV, saying she authorized the school to give the student Benadryl during a reaction. ‘They didn’t do that.’ “

“Pendleton went on to tell the station that at the beginning of the year, she had tried to give the school clinical aid and EpiPen for reactions, but was told to keep it at home. EpiPens inject epinephrine, or adrenaline, currently available only by prescription.”

The child was in cardiac arrest by the time the ambulance arrived. She was pronounced dead a short time later at a medical center.

“Since severe allergies can develop without previous incidences, Dr. Dan Atkins, head of ambulatory pediatric at National Jewish Health in Denver, told ABC News that stocking EpiPens in schools might be a good idea.”

“There are kids who don’t know they’re food allergic until they get into the food,” Atkins told ABC. “In that situation, it would be good to have an EpiPen available.”

Coincidentally I was talking to a friend last week about her children who have multiple serious allergies. She said that when the school nurse described the procedure to get to the EpiPen (locked in a box in the clinic office, have to find the right one and get it to the child), she didn’t feel like she could count on that to save her child’s life. While she did have the EpiPen and other medicine with the school’s nurse, she also had Benadryl in her kids’ backpacks. And the kids were instructed if they felt like they were having a reaction to go to the backpack and take the medicine. She trusted her kids more than the teachers or nurse to help them.

She told her kids if they want to suspend you for it then so be it but at least you’ll be alive.

She is currently homeschooling so she no longer has to worry about this.

Do you have an EpiPen or Benadryl at school for your child? Do you have confidence in your child’s teacher or nurse that they would very quickly administer the medicine? Would you ever send back-up medicine in your child’s backpack? What do you make of the Virginia case? Should schools stock EpiPens for kids that have a reaction and didn’t know they were allergic?

53 comments Add your comment

[...] Should schools stock EpiPens? Can administrators get to them fast enough?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Coincidentally I was talking to a friend last week about her children who have multiple serious allergies. She said that when the school nurse described the procedure to get to the EpiPen (locked in a box in the clinic office, have to find the right …Child with peanut allergy dies at schoolSheKnows.com [...]

djm_NC

January 10th, 2012
6:59 am

my youngest daughter is severely allergic to bees and she always had an epi at the school and in her back pack. i would never trust the school to react fast enough. she also had instructions to make sure she was gotten to an er immediately…she also had epi pens anywhere she spent much time (at a couple of friends houses) and her friends were all aware of her allergy and were taught what to do. they spent lots of time riding horses and dirt bikes in the woods and teaching them all about her allergy and what to do saved her life several times. you have to educate you child and anyone else who has a lot of contact with them. never leave it up to someone else to react fast enough. and always make sure to replace all the epi pens with new ones when they expire.

Busy Mom

January 10th, 2012
7:14 am

My 7 year old has a peanut allergy so she has an Epipen at school. Her school has an RN and all of the medicine is in her clinic. I have complete confidence in her– she is very thorough at the beginning of the school year with allergy action plans and the teachers are all aware of the severity of the allergies.

I doubt you will find schools stocking extra since it’s a prescription medication and very expensive. I would think there is some kind of liability issue with that as well.

motherjanegoose

January 10th, 2012
7:50 am

Can you even get an epi-pen without a prescription? How would schools “stock” them, if a Doctor has to write a prescription for a specific person/pen? What if they administered an epi-pen to a child who did not actually need it? These are things I do not know. We had a girl on a family trip with us who was allergic to nuts. She carried her epi-pen along and we kept an eagle eye out for all foods. We once had a salad with pecans on it and she almost ate some. Tough stuff to keep an eye out for. I always wonder why there seem to be more children with these types of allergies now. You did not hear much about this when I first started teaching. I am serious and not trying to be catty. Anyone know?

BusyMom

January 10th, 2012
7:55 am

@MJG…I really wonder that too since my oldest has an allergy and my other 3 don’t. They all eat PB&J all the time and she’s allergic.

Me

January 10th, 2012
8:01 am

It seems that school systems could have a “medical director” who would be able to authorize the prescription necessary. Since Epi is manufactured by the body there are no true contraindications as no one is “allergic” to it. Supplying it to someone who doesn’t “need” it does no real harm – you will see an increased heartrate, the individual will feel flushed and may appear red in the face but this is minor when erring on the side of caution.

Old Man

January 10th, 2012
8:17 am

Of course they should and I’m actually surprised that they don’t. Enough kids are allergic to bee stings and you would never know it.

I learn something new everyday...

January 10th, 2012
8:40 am

…I would have thought that keeping an Epi-pen in a kid’s backpack would be considered having a drug in a minor’s possession…

jarvis

January 10th, 2012
8:56 am

In previous years my wife has taught children with serious alergies. She has been trained to use the Epi-Pen, and the parents provided one for her to have on hand in the room.

She teaches Kindergarten by the way.

jarvis

January 10th, 2012
8:57 am

By the way, can a kid really get suspended for having Benadryl in his/her backpack?

Voice of Reason

January 10th, 2012
8:58 am

I have read that the reason allergies are more prevalent now than ever before has to do with the fact that we as humans have adopted a more rigorous personal hygiene regiment.

Basically our bodies are designed to have to deal with a certain amount of bacteria (germs) within our bodies and due to the fact that we wash our hands religiously now and use anti-bacterial soaps and such the antibodies that our bodies manufacture to deal with bacteria (germs) no longer have a job to do because there is no longer bacteria (germs) to kill, so instead these antibodies cause thing like allergies because our bodies have no idea what else to do with the excess antibodies in our system.

My advice is to let your damn kids get dirty once in a while as this won’t kill them and quit being germaphobes. But no one will listen because how can you feel good about yourself as a parent if god-forbid your special little snowflake gets a cold once in a while.

mystery poster

January 10th, 2012
9:07 am

I have a license to teach, I do not have a license to practice medicine or to dispense prescription drugs. ’nuff said.

K's mom

January 10th, 2012
9:19 am

Little boy #1 has no allergies, we will see about little boy #2. If I were a parent with a child with allergies and the school kept the epi-pen/benedryl in the nurse’s office, that would concern me greatly. I do not think the school should be responsible for supplying the epi pen, but they had darn better keep it in a place where it can be gotten to quickly for a young child. An older child should be allowed to keep the necessary meds on them at all times with no questions asked.

Teachers do have too much on their plates, but I know my friends who teach would never forgive themselves if a tragedy occurred because of rules following with no common sense application.

Techmom

January 10th, 2012
9:23 am

I recently went back to the allergist and had testing done. I’ve had severe allergies since I was a kid and took shots for 5 years as a teenager. I was never tested for food allergies until now though. The interesting thing is that I tested positive to peanuts. I eat peanuts, peanut butter and things containing peanuts frequently. I was still prescribed an Epi pen just in case since as noted in the article above, a severe reaction can occur at any time. The thing to consider, and there’s probably no way to know for sure, is that allergy testing does not tell you how your body will react. When you test allergic to certain things, it could just be sneezing, running nose, itchy eyes or throat, it could be a digestive allergy causing stomach pain, diarrhea or gas or you literally could go into anaphylactic shock and die. BUT you don’t know anything other than “you’re allergic to peanuts”. So part of me wonders if half of the kids don’t actually have that severe of an allergy (and it would be ok for other kids to eat PB&J sandwiches) but since there’s no way to tell, we are forced to go overboard.

Should kids be allowed to carry Benedryl (even the dissolving strips or tablets)? Yes and every teacher should have these at his/her disposal as well. Should a kid keep an Epi Pen in his/her classroom? Yes. I doubt you’ll see Epi Pens as OTC drugs anytime soon though.

MJG I have often wondered the same thing. No one was allergic to peanuts when I was a kid and I’m not that old (33). I honestly think it has more to do with how our bodies have reacted to the foods and additives in our diets. It’s not like this is something that has happened over thousands of years and our bodies are slowly adapting to anything. It’s a quick and severe reaction that has overtaken a portion of our society in a relatively short term. I’ve wondered too if this is an American phenomena- are kids in Europe experiencing peanut allergies like ours are?

Just Me

January 10th, 2012
9:33 am

I don’t have kids that are allergic but I do have two with asthma. Students are allowed to keep prescription inhalers on them in school, I would think that epi pens would fall in the same catagory and the school would allow students to carry these as well. Both inhalers and epipens are life saving medications. We’re in Henry County schools – I have one in high school and one in elementary and they’ve always been allowed to carry their inhalers. I do have to notify the office and complete the medication authorization form for thier student files – but if needed, they aren’t dependent on the teachers or nurse if they need their inhaler. The same rule should apply for epipens.

Misty

January 10th, 2012
9:59 am

Sometimes, I think, that an older child or adult can develop an allergy of a certain medication simply by taking too much of it. I’m allergic to aspirin and it’s only because I was prescribed x amount every night for migraines. I asked the doctor about it a couple of years ago. Her response? “Well, you can get an epi pen, a dose of Benedryl and be near the ER. The first dose won’t harm you. The second might.” Um, no thanks. I”ll just not take it. Should a nurse have an epi pen for a student? No. The teacher should keep it in a plastic bag with the child’s name on it in the classroom. Once the student is old enough, he or she should keep it on their person. In addition, the said child should be allowed to keep a dose of Benedryl in their bags.

jarvis

January 10th, 2012
9:59 am

“I have a license to teach, I do not have a license to practice medicine or to dispense prescription drugs. ’nuff said.”

You don’t need a license to dispense medicine. You have to have a license to prescibe and retial Rx medicine. What an ignorant jump in logic.

Penguinmom

January 10th, 2012
10:00 am

I wonder if the issue is the epipen has a stimulant in it so they are worried that someone somewhere could use it as a drug instead of as a life-saving device.

I agree with @just me, it seems like this should be something similar to inhalers and should be kept on the kid or in the classroom. The office is usually too far away.

This reminds me of a time in high school when I was around a cat at school (long story). I have severe cat allergies and by the next class, my eyes were watering and swelling. We happened to have a sub that day and she gave me benadryl (even saying that she would probably be fired if anyone found out). That took care of it and allowed me to function reasonably the rest of the day.

JOD

January 10th, 2012
10:09 am

How sad and frustrating for this family! Knock on wood, no big allergies here, but as Old Man mentioned, how do you know you’re allergic to bees until/unless you get stung?

I don’t see how a medication that must be administered immediately but is kept locked up in an office nowhere near the individual who needs it is helpful. Seems like Russian roulette to me. I would send the Benadryl/Epi with my child and deal with repercussions from the school.

@Techmom – Looks like you and I were at Tech at the same time!

mystery poster

January 10th, 2012
10:22 am

@Jarvis:
EpiPens inject epinephrine, or adrenaline, currently available only by prescription.
Last I knew, you need a permit to dispense prescription medicine.

tancred

January 10th, 2012
10:29 am

Let me get this right. You blog about a story already covered in another blog (a better blog, too) about an “alleged” alergic reaction of a student in Virginia. Great work.

oneofeach4me

January 10th, 2012
10:29 am

I say yes. They should have a few on hand in the clinic that can be distributed by the district each year. I say that because like Old Man said… some kids could be allergic to bee stings yet no one knows until they are stung for the first time at school. With kids having more and more allergies these days, Epi pens should be viewed just as important as CPR training and defibrillators.

As for personal responsibility, if your child (or mine for that matter) has a severe allergy, an Epi pen should be on them at all times and they should be educated as much as possible about their condition and what to do.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 10th, 2012
10:30 am

I do think a child could get suspended for having the epipen or benadryl in her bag. they won’t even let them keep cough drops on them.

Warrior Woman

January 10th, 2012
10:31 am

We have had serious issues with schools trying to force my allergic, asthmatic children to keep their inhalers and epi-pens in the school nurse’s office instead of on their person. I instructed my kids to ignore the school rule and keep their emergency meds with them at all times. As TWG’s friend did, we left some meds with the school nurse, but we also had the girls’ keep an epi-pen and inhaler with them at all times. At one school, an emergency revealed this practice, and the school threatened to suspend my daughter. It actually took my lawyer pointing out that if we had obeyed the rules, the child would likely be dead, since the school nurse couldn’t be found when the epi-pen was needed, to get the school to back down.

Fred

January 10th, 2012
10:32 am

@MJG: You scare me some times lol. The first thing I thought read I read this blog (and was about to post) was the SAME thing you asked. Why is this (deadly nut allergies) such a problem now? I don’t remember ever hearing of it when I was a kid either.

@Voice of Reason: Kids get their peanut allergies WAY before they are able to crawl on the ground and eat dirt. Your “reason” lacks logic. Sorry.

oneofeach4me

January 10th, 2012
10:41 am

Oh.. and I agree about the Benadryl, the nurse should be able to disperse those as long as the child’s parent fills out the medical form at the beginning of the year authorizing it’s use if needed which would release the school from liability.

Techmom

January 10th, 2012
11:04 am

@Fred some kids get allergies before they’re able to crawl and some are developed. The allergist told me that many adults develop allergies they never had as kids just the same as some kids “grow” out of theirs. The theory however behind allergy shots/drops is that if you expose the body to the allergens in low dosages, the body will stop over-reacting to the allergens. Most people however do not stop being allergic to these things completely, the reaction is just a whole lot less.

I don’t completely agree with Voice of Reason’s logic though b/c if it were just a clean environment that it took for people to be severely allergic to ‘other’ things, there would be a lot more adults than kids having severe allergic reactions.

catlady

January 10th, 2012
11:10 am

There are (legally) limited amounts of medical care that teachers can give. The school nurse, if she can be found, can give others. Kids are not supposed to have any medicine at school except what the school nurse has (with multiple signed orders from the parents.)

If I had a severely allergic child, I would worry, too.

Last year I almost got in trouble because I had my glucose meter and lancets in my lockbox (unlocked) in my closet in my classroom, on a high shelf. One of our most disturbed kids was found going around and sticking kids with a lancet (the same one, over and over) and when the principal found out I had some in my room, unlocked, she was sure it was mine. Well, it wasn’t; the boy took it from home (his granny had it). I did not mention that my inhaler was in my purse. If I am in an emergency, I don’t need to be looking for a key!

It’s hard because there are many things a teacher isn’t supposed to do, but when the nurse is absent/unavailable we are told to “handle it ourselves” and we can’t call the parents to get a sick kid.

Years ago I was told I would be catherizing a little boy in my class. I told them h3ll no, I would NOT. I had to on a daily basis clean up his feces and change his diaper; that was enough. I had him in 6th grade later and had to do the same thing–uncomfortable!

When I taught sped I had to wipe kids and change sanitary napkins.

I guess most folks have NO IDEA what is expected of teachers.

jarvis

January 10th, 2012
11:11 am

As of December 48 states(only New York and Rhode Island excluded) have laws allowing children to carry EpiPens to school with them. Any school not allowing this is breaking state law.

http://www.aanma.org/advocacy/meds-at-school/

Google….it’s quick an easy.

JOD

January 10th, 2012
11:49 am

@Warrior Woman and catlady – Wow and wow. So little common sense in our society today.

Wow...

January 10th, 2012
12:09 pm

…”the school threatened to suspend my daughter. It actually took my lawyer pointing out that if we had obeyed the rules” – who keeps a lawyer on retention at all times?

Yeah....

January 10th, 2012
12:11 pm

Finally, a blog that has merit.

All schools should not only have epi pens, but they should have extensive training and drills.

Great job.

Voice of Reason

January 10th, 2012
12:27 pm

@Fred
Right because an overprotective germaphobe mother couldn’t possibly pass her overabundance of antibodies into her unborn fetus thereby giving birth to a child born with allergies.

But keep using those anti-bacterial soaps….maybe it will get to a point where you have to live in a bubble to avoid breathing real air…enjoy that.

/If you swing logic around like a kid with a sword you better be able to use it.

camille

January 10th, 2012
12:27 pm

I think that the teacher should have an epi-pen in the class (I just toured a private school in Marietta and pen(s) were on the message board by the door up high for the teacher to reach) as well as the child. There isn’t enough time in some cases to get the pen from the locked cabinet.

My son is allergic to shellfish.. well, his school served pop corn shrimp about a month ago….It looked like popcorn chicken. The teacher thought it was chicken…. so my son ate the chicken..

After lunch he commented that it was the “best lunch he had in a long time.”.. Well, he never had shrimp before and he knows he is allergic. Mins later he starts to swell up, scratching his throat, coughing… yep.. allergic reaction…. Praise the Lord it wasn’t fatal at that moment, however, we don’t know what will happen if there is a next time.

Susan Carney

January 10th, 2012
12:39 pm

1. All staff not just teachers have epi pen training in Massachusetts if they follow the law
2. All students carry a bag with their epi pen wherever they go and give it to the adult in charge
3. Nurse has extra epi pens they are duplicates from prescribed students
4. The Good Samaritan Law saws WE ALL will step up to save someone
5.I would use someone else’s epi pen if some child was having an allergic reaction …
I was an educator for 37 years and saw one anaphalatic reaction and that was enough for me

Island Mom

January 10th, 2012
1:51 pm

I’ve also wondered about the seeming onslaught of allergies that were virtually unheard of in my childhood (I’m 29)…

I remember reading a magazine article in a waiting room a few years ago that speculated that the rise in c-sections could also have an effect on childhood allergies. I’m no medical professional but the reasoning in the article seemed like it could be possible.

K's Mom

January 10th, 2012
3:00 pm

Ok, I’ll bite, how in the world could a c-section lead to allergies? I have had one and will have another and my kid has no allergies. The one child I do know who has peanut allergies was a vaginal delivery.

mom2alex&max

January 10th, 2012
3:45 pm

Anyone can give a shot in an emergency; it’s not like it is rocket science. I was a volunteer at a scout summer day camp, and one of my charges had allergies. I had to carry the epi-pen on my person all day wherever we went and was instructed to give it to him if he had a reaction.

If I had a child with severe allergies, I would instruct him to keep the pen and the medicine on his backpack and I will deal with the consequences if he gets discovered and gets in trouble. Some school policies are beyond idiotic and I will fight them if I have to.

Fred

January 10th, 2012
5:14 pm

Voice of Reason

January 10th, 2012
12:27 pm

@Fred
Right because an overprotective germaphobe mother couldn’t possibly pass her overabundance of antibodies into her unborn fetus thereby giving birth to a child born with allergies.

But keep using those anti-bacterial soaps….maybe it will get to a point where you have to live in a bubble to avoid breathing real air…enjoy that.

/If you swing logic around like a kid with a sword you better be able to use it.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I can use and do use it. you however have spouted fallacies and generalities trying to pass them off as logic. Logic isn’t a “word” it is a very scientific thought process which you don’t seem to have a firm grasp off. Let me give you a piece of advice:

It’s better to let others think you are a fool than to open your mouth and erase all doubt. (or in your case type and erase all doubt).

Have a nice day and thanks for your……………. typing I guess would be the best word to describe your contribution………

Matt

January 10th, 2012
5:27 pm

Testing the blog…

Matt

January 10th, 2012
5:29 pm

Dadgummit, why won’t my post show up?

Matt

January 10th, 2012
5:29 pm

Convince schools that children are not trying to get high off their medications, and this nonsense will end.

homeschooler

January 10th, 2012
7:16 pm

This story makes me physically sick. My daughter had a severe reaction after eating one cashew and one almond a little over a year ago. She is quite the hypochondriac so we were not sure how serious to take her reaction. She was saying she could not breath but was crying and talking to us. I got scared when she would not swallow her saliva. She would continually run to the trash can and spit instead of swallowing. I had already given her a dose of benadryl when the reaction started so I called the nurse line for advise. They advised that I take her immediately to the hospital. We avoided all nuts until she was allergy tested. I’ll never forget how I felt when the doctor pointed to the huge swelling on my daughter’s back and said “that is cashew”. I guess until that point I truly thought she had been over reacting. Had I not given her the benadryl immediately, she could have died.
They should have epi-pens in every room of every school with instructions on when and how to use them. My allergist said, in regards to future bad reactions, “if you’re thinking about using it, you should have already used it, it can’t hurt her”.
I don’t know why there are more severe and deadly reactions now. Perhaps we are just being made more aware. And some people do say their kids have allergies that they don’t really have. Seems strange but they do. But it is a real problem and each of these cases that have been brought up lately seem so preventable. Just makes me sad.
If my child was in school, her epi pen would be no more than 12 steps away at all times or she would not be there.

Marty

January 10th, 2012
9:56 pm

I have friends who teach sped and have to do the diaper-changing, catheters, bath giving, etc. Not me. I feel for the kids and the parents, but in these cases schools are baby-sitters, nothing more. These kids could be in another situation.

And no, I do not want an epi-pen….good samaritan law or not. I’m not trained, comfortable, nor do I want to give this injection. Too many bottom-feeding lawyers out there thee days.

Valstake

January 10th, 2012
10:42 pm

Being childless, I don’t know if schools should have epi-pens available or not… but that being said, there is no way that I would give a stranger a shot, Good Samaritan law notwithstanding. The Good Samaritan law does not protect laypersons from liability, regardless of what Susan Carney (12:39 post) writes. I’d render all aid that I could, but making the 911 phone call might be the best I could manage.

LungLady

January 10th, 2012
11:10 pm

djm_NC

January 11th, 2012
6:59 am

there was an epi pen kept at school but my daughter also had one inher back pack…she also kept benadryl. you do have to have a script for them…my doc would always prescribe several for her to be kept at places she spent lots of time. i dont know if it was illegal but i really didnt care. the shots need to be given very soon after exposure and i would trust that to anyone else. this is a life or death experience.

as for nut allergies…i wonder that too. im glad none of my kids were allergic to foods…i am allergic to shellfish and it really sucks.

VCGA

January 11th, 2012
7:29 am

Many schools don’t have a nurse and in the ones that do does the nurse sit in the clinic all the time so that if this happened she could immediately provide the benadryl or epi-pen? My nephew is allergic to eggs and peanuts. Try looking at labels for eggs….the majority of us wouldn’t know if something had eggs or not because many of the labels don’t say “eggs”. He is now 11 and knows how to use the epi-pen along with the rest of the family. He is never anywhere without the epi-pen. After reading this I would hope that schools would take allergies more seriously so that someone else’s child doesn’t need to die needlessly. And to Jarvis who said they were “qualified” to teach not to practice medicine or dispense prescription drugs…from that statement I would bet that you also “CAN”T TEACH”!

GAParentWithFoodAllergyKids

January 11th, 2012
8:12 am

Folks… the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 8 in 2009, which allows for kids to carry and self administer their own epi-pen at school and on school trips. The bill was signed into law the same year by the Governor. The child, parent, and physician are required to fill out and sign a form to be filed with the school before they are allowed to carry. Please spread the word and research further if you so desire. It is important we get the facts straight, here. Lots of misinformation and confusion in the above threads!

Warrior Woman

January 11th, 2012
10:33 am

@Wow – Did I say I kept a lawyer on retainer? I hired one to protect my child from the idiots in charge at her school.