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Dr. Max Gomez: New Federal Law Urges Schools To Stock Up On EpiPens

A new federal law will offer incentives to schools that stock up on EpiPens. (Credit CBS 2)

A new federal law will offer incentives to schools that stock up on EpiPens. (Credit CBS 2)

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A new federal law that will take effect in 2014 urges schools to stock up on EpiPens to protect children who suffer from severe food allergies.

The move is important even for children without allergies as a growing number of kids are having their first allergic reactions at school, CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported Friday.

Emergency Department doctor Sarah Denny said she has treated dozens of children who have had severe allergic reactions to food. She has also had to do it as a mother for her son, Liam, who suffered a sudden and life-threatening reaction to soy.

“We could hear our ambulance on the way. I ran out to the curb with Liam in my arms to wait for them and as I looked down at him he was just pale, unconscious, and lifeless,” Dr. Denny said.

Denny’s husband injected Liam with a dose of epinephrine. In an allergic reaction it may be the only thing that can save a child’s life. The Dennys were lucky that the incident happened at home where they had an EpiPen, but that is not always the case.

“About 25 percent of children who have their first episode of a severe allergic reaction to a food it occurs inside the school setting,” said Dr. David Stukus of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Stukus is an allergist and a supporter of a new law that will put more injectors in schools.

Until now, it was up to parents like Sarah Denny to take epinephrine injectors to their child’s school. In an emergency the school nurse could use them, but only on children who brought their own.

“Food allergies have increased by about 50 percent in the last decade alone. Currently, approximately 2 to 6 percent of all children have some form of food allergy and if you think about that, that’s really about one to two children in every classroom in America on average,” Dr. Stukus said.

Dr. Denny said she knows that danger all too well, which is why in addition to supporting the law she lobbied for it.

“Not only will it save lives, but I think that this will also raise awareness on food allergies and how dangerous and severe they really can be,” she said.

The new law does not require schools to stock up on epinephrine injectors but it does give them financial incentives if they do. States will have to pass their own versions of the law before schools can get the injectors.

Currently, only four states require schools to stock EpiPens and only 27 states allow it. New York is not on that list partly out of liability concern for teachers and nurses who administer the EpiPen.

Supporters said that with very little training any teacher or school staff member can be taught to use the injector in an emergency.

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