School nurses say Ohio schools should stock ephinephrine to protect students with allergies

COLUMBUS, Ohio - They could save your child's life. But, chances are, your child's school does not have an EpiPen.

EpiPens are auto-injectors that contain one dose of the drug epinephrine. They are used as an emergency treatment for potentially deadly allergic reactions.

The Ohio Association of School Nurses wants state lawmakers to pass a law requiring every school to have an EpiPen.

"It could happen any day. A child could have an allergic reaction and not be able to be saved," said Kate King, the association's president. "We promise our parents... that your child is going to be safe when they arrive (at school). And we can't assure that all the time."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies in children are on the rise in the U.S.  A CDC study found there was an 18 percent increase in food allergies in children between 1997 and 2007. A 2010 study published in 'The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology' found peanut allergies in children tripled between 1997 and 2008.

A  Virginia law requiring schools to stock EpiPens took effect Sunday. Virginia is now one of nine states that either allows or requires schools to have EpiPens, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. An FAAN spokesperson said their organization is also lobbying members of U.S. Congress to create financial incentives that would encourage states to require EpiPens in schools.

The Virginia law was sparked by the death of Amarria Johnson, 7, in January. She suffered an allergic reaction from sharing a peanut and died at her elementary school, according to ABC News.  Her mother, Laura Pendleton, lobbied for the EpiPen legislation.

"It's just helping me in the grieving process, because, you know, I still grieve for my daughter," said Pendleton to a reporter for ABC affiliate WRIC after the bill was signed in April.

There are parents in Ohio who also support putting EpiPens in every school.

"To me, that EpiPen means life," said Medina resident Teresa Newlands.

Her son, Curtis, 12, is allergic to nuts, fish, shellfish and peas. His peanut allergy concerns his mother the most. She said Curtis can have a deadly allergic reaction from just from sitting near an open bag of peanuts.

"To us, peanuts are like poison," said Newlands.

During the school year, Curtis carries two EpiPens in a pouch around his waist every day.  Curtis and his mother said it would be a relief to know his school also had an EpiPen available to help students suffering allergic reactions.

"My mom always tells me about these people that die from food allergies... and I don't want to be like them," he said.

Right now, Ohio students, like Curtis, are allowed to carry doctor-prescribed EpiPens at schools. The medication cannot be used on any students other than the student prescribed the medication, according to King.

Ohio Sen. David Burke (R-Marysville) said those rules should remain unchanged.

"I don't want the state to mandate that every school has to have an EpiPen on site. This is something the school should be allowed to determine on their own," said Burke.

Burke said he researched policies on EpiPens in schools and determined it is expensive and unnecessary to require schools to stock EpiPens.

"These are not cheap. And we're talking about very rare occurrences, albeit not rare to you if it happens to your child, but we're trying to find if this has happened in state of Ohio and we're not bringing up a lot of numbers," he said.

One EpiPen costs approximately $100, according to Burke. They're effective for one year.

Watch the report Monday on NewsChannel5 at 11 p.m.

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