Prompted by an uptick in diagnoses of food allergies in school age children, a new state law took effect in Illinois in August 2011 allowing school districts to supply their schools with Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, devices better known as EpiPens that can rescue someone suffering an anaphylactic shock.
On Monday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan held a press conference at Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital reminding school officials and doctors of their rights and unveiled a "toolkit" designed for doctors and school officials to learn about the law, and how to fulfill a school’s request for EpiPens. Here’s Madigan’s office:
Under the Act, school nurses can now administer EpiPens on students who go into anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening allergic reaction – regardless of what their medical records show. The Act also allows any authorized school personnel to administer an EpiPen on a student who has their own, personal prescription for an EpiPen. In order for schools to obtain EpiPens, the Act allows physicians to write prescriptions in the name of a school district, instead of a single patient.
Also speaking at Monday's news conference was Sheela Raja, an Oak Parker who's Kindergarten-bound 5-year-old daughter suffers from peanut, tree nut and egg allergies. She said it's a relief to know that schools are "an ally" in staying vigilant against potentially harmful foods.
"As a parent of a food-allergic child, you get up every day and think about what you need to do to help them navigate the world safely," she said. "The fact that schools are now getting on board really does underscore that they understand this issue. I feel much less alone as a parent."
Raja's daughter will soon be headed to school, just one Oak Park Elementary School District 97 facility where they'll keep two EpiPens on hand. What about the other area schools? Let's take a look:*
Yes, two in each school No, supplied from home No, supplied from home "At this point we do not but are exploring it now" — Fenwick Principal Peter Groom
For Raja, knowing that EpiPens are at least available at her daughter's school is comforting. She likens them to defibrillator machines you'll often find in public places.
"It's so rare that we have to use them," she said, "but isn't it nice that they are there?"
* Calls to River Forest District 90 and Fenwick High School were not returned.