The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

October 18, 2013

Emergency

Change to allow injections for severe allergic reactions could save lives

The state Department of Education has posted for review a policy change that would allow teachers, secretaries and others so trained to administer epinephrine auto injections to any student suffering a severe allergic reaction.

EpiPen, the most common self-injectable form of epinephrine, can immediately reduce hives and swelling and open constricted airways long enough so a person can reach medical assistance.

We believe the policy change would be a good one.

At present, if a student does not have an existing prescription for the EpiPen or a previously diagnosed allergy, injections are prohibited and the school does not keep the pens on hand.

One of the main reasons for the change is — as is so often the case here — the rural nature of West Virginia.

Becky King, a registered nurse who oversees the state Department of Education’s health programs, says it’s a huge reason. She told The Charleston Gazette that in rural areas, by the time they do get emergency services to respond, it could be too late.

With an allergic reaction, time is of the essence. A patient can go from zero symptoms to a full-blown reaction in seconds.

The number of children with severe allergies is growing.

FARE, Food Allergy Research & Education, which works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis, puts the current number of children under age 18 with severe allergies at one in 13. FARE’s website adds that a significant portion of severe reactions that occur at school are among students with no prior allergy diagnosis.

Costs to the state would be minimal as Mylan Pharmaceuticals has offered to sponsor the program, providing up to four EpiPens to each school at no cost.

Schools’ participation in the program would be voluntary.

Nurses have advocated for this change for years. Their advice when faced with a severe allergic reaction is don’t hesitate.

King told the Gazette, “Give the EpiPen immediately because you just never know. In 4 minutes, you could have brain damage and airway obstruction ... and your body ends up closing down and eventually you die.”

Comment on the policy change will be open until Nov. 9. We urge people to check it out and favorably respond.

To see the policy or file an online opinion, go to http://wvde.state.wv.us/ policies/, click on the URL for Policy 2422.8 and scroll to section  126-27-10 Emergency Medication. A second link under the policy number takes you to the comment section.

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