Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Applauds Gov. O’Malley, Legislators for Ensuring All Maryland Students Have Access to Life-Saving Epinephrine
Under New Law, Maryland Public Schools Will Keep Emergency Supplies of the Medication and Allow Trained Staff to Administer to Students Having a Severe Allergic Reaction
BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland-DC Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America applauded Governor Martin O’Malley and legislators of both parties today for enacting a new law requiring schools to keep an emergency supply of epinephrine on hand for students who may be having a life-threatening allergic reaction. The bill, SB 621, passed both houses of the General Assembly unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor this morning.
“Receiving a dose of epinephrine in the critical minutes following exposure to a food allergen can mean the difference between life and death,” said Susan Sweitzer, Executive Director of the Maryland-DC Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “While many students in Maryland public schools already carry epinephrine auto-injectors, or keep a prescribed supply with the teacher or nurse, many others don’t have a prescription or even know that they are allergic to anything. This law will help address preventable deaths caused by food allergies because it ensures that all students will have access to epinephrine in case of an emergency.”
Epinephrine slows down the effects of an allergic reaction, buying critical time to get a patient to the hospital. Until now, Maryland schools were only allowed to administer epinephrine to students who had a prescription for the medication. Yet allergies can develop at any time, and 25 percent of reactions that take place at school happen to students who had not previously been diagnosed with an allergy. Under the new law, nurses and other school personnel will be trained to identify and treat severe allergic reactions.
The issue of food allergy awareness and preparedness has received increased attention since the January death of Richmond, Virginia first-grader Ammaria Johnson, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction at school after ingesting a peanut. While epinephrine could have saved her life, the school didn’t have a prescribed dose available for her. Last month, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a similar bill into law requiring its schools to stock emergency epinephrine and allowing trained employees to administer it to students having an allergic reaction but who don’t have a prescribed dose on hand at the school.
“We are grateful that legislators recognized the potential for tragedy to strike in Maryland and took immediate and appropriate legislative action,” said Ms. Sweitzer. “We commend members of both parties for coming together on this issue to keep children with food allergies safe by ensuring that this life-saving medication is more easily available throughout the Maryland school system.”
Childhood food allergies are becoming increasingly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an 18 percent increase in food allergies among school-aged children from 1997 to 2007, and it is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 25 children in this age group. An estimated 16% to 18% of children with food allergies have experienced a reaction in school.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the largest and oldest patient advocacy organization in the world for people with asthma, food allergies and related allergic diseases. AAFA provides practical information and community based services through a national network of chapters and support groups. The Maryland-Greater DC Chapter is celebrating its 30th year. For more information about the local Chapter visit www.aafa-md.org.