Every day almost 50 million children pass through the doors of public schools across the country. For these young people, school is a place to learn, make friends, and be exposed to new things. For a small number of children, however, lunch time, a classmate’s birthday party, or a piece of candy from a friend can risk exposure to foods that can cause a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction.
Most of us wouldn’t even worry about peanuts or soy, but for these kids the consequences can be fatal. Their throats constrict making them fight for every breath and if they don’t get a life-saving shot of epinephrine within minutes they can die.
One out of every 25 kids has a food allergy – that’s more than one per classroom in many schools.
We’ve all heard sad stories about students trying a new food at lunch, accidentally eating something that’s dangerous, and suffering from fatal or near-fatal reactions. In many cases such terrible outcomes could have been prevented.
Following Illinois’ Lead
I am proud that earlier this week the President signed into law bipartisan legislation that I introduced with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk to help schools be prepared to help avoid such tragedies. It’s called the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.
I introduced this bill along with Senator Kirk to push states across America to follow the example set by our own home state of Illinois. Two years ago, Illinois Governor Quinn signed a law that allowed schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine and authorized school nurses to give epinephrine shots to any student suffering a severe allergic reaction. The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act builds on Illinois’ law by allowing states to designate which school personnel can administer the epinephrine in an emergency, and rewarding states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine..
Considering that children spend almost 30% of their time at school, schools can and should play a role in responding to students who have a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Currently students with severe allergies are allowed to self-administer epinephrine if they are having a serious allergic reaction. But what if the child forgets their epinephrine at home? And what about the many children who don’t even know they have an allergy?
States should require schools to keep epinephrine on hand and school personnel should be trained to identify a severe allergic reaction and know how to respond.
I could not have asked for a better partner in this effort than Senator Kirk. We can do better for the kids across America, and this bill moves us in the right direction.
Stay informed on what I am doing for Illinois and what is happening in Congress by visiting my website. If you have a question, a comment, or are in need of assistance, please contact my office at one of the phone numbers below or send me an email.
Office phone numbers:
Washington, DC: (202) 224-2152
Chicago: (312) 353-4952
Springfield: (217) 492-4062
Carbondale: (618) 351-1122
Rock Island: (309) 786-5173