Food allergies are on the rise in this country. A study from Pediatrics in July 2011 found that 1 of 13 children suffer from a food allergy in the U.S. More than 1 out of 3 of these children had a history of a severe reaction. And 3 out of 10 children had allergies to multiple foods.
Mylan Specialty created the EpiPen4Schools(r) program to help schools have improved access to epinephrine if a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs at school. Although we want each child who has a known food allergy to have two EpiPens at the school, there are times in which a child may have a reaction and a non-expired EpiPen is not available. EpiPens are not cheap. And Mylan Specialty's program will offer four free EpiPens or EpiPen Jrs to the schools. More information is available at this website.
In our state of Ohio, there is no law allowing EpiPens to be in the school and "undesignated". That means the schools cannot currently have "extra" EpiPens on hand to use in an emergency. The only EpiPens allowed are those that were prescribed for a specific child. That means children that have a known allergy and children that could develop their first reaction at school would be potentially unprotected. I am a strong advocate for legislation in Ohio that allows undesignated EpiPens in the schools. Having said that, my wife the allergist, Dr. Grace Ryu, M.D., makes a very good point about this issue. If your child has a known food allergy, you need to make sure your child has a non-expired EpiPen 2-Pak at the school to ensure that if they needed the medicine at school it would always be available. Do not rely on the school having extras. If the school just used their EpiPens for another child and has ordered more, they may not be available. It is possible the school's EpiPens could be expired. Children and adults need to have two pens available because 20-25% of the time, a second dose is required. A wonderful website with information on food allergies is here, the Food Allergy Network. Be safe!