Durbin Discusses New Law Protecting School Children with Allergies

Senator’s Legislation Expands Access to Emergency Epinephrine Auto-Injectors in Schools

[FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS] –Students with severe allergies will be safer at school following the enactment of legislation encouraging states across the nation to improve school access to epinephrine auto-injectors, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today.  The drug is used if students have life threatening anaphylactic reactions, which have become increasingly common. The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which Durbin introduced along with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), was approved by the Senate in October and was signed by President Obama four weeks ago.


“For about 1 in every 13 American children, school lunchtime or a classmate’s birthday party can risk exposure to foods that can cause a severe and life threatening reaction. Many children don't even know they have severe allergies until their first reaction, which can be severe and take place at school as easily as at home,” said Durbin. “This danger is avoidable.  Congress voted to help ensure that schools across the country are prepared to help avoid such tragedies. I thank Senator Kirk for being my partner in this effort to ensure that we are taking every appropriate step to protect kids in their schools.”


“Seven years ago, I met the Bunning family of Lake Forest - parents who have two children with severe food allergies,” Kirk said. “After our meeting, I made it my mission to pass legislation that would help the millions of kids across the US who have severe food allergies. The Senate's passage of our bill means that we are a step closer to easing the minds of parents who send their kids with allergies to school and encouraging safe administration of epinephrine. I am proud to work with Senator Durbin to pass this life-saving legislation, and I look forward to it being signed into law.”


“Nearly six million children in the U.S. have food allergies – roughly two in every classroom – and this bill encourages greater safety in our schools,” said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), which worked toward passage of the bill. “We thank Sen. Durbin and Sen. Kirk for their steadfast support of this legislation and for recognizing the need to better protect students with food allergies.”


The law builds on an Illinois law passed in 2011 which allows school nurses to administer epinephrine to any student suffering from a severe allergic reaction.  Durbin and Kirk’s legislation allows all trained and authorized school personnel – not just school nurses – to administer the epinephrine and rewards states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine.  Most schools, particularly those in rural or low to middle income areas, do not retain full time nurses, sometimes sharing a single nurse across an entire school district.


Although students with severe allergies are already allowed to self-administer epinephrine if they have a serious allergic reaction, a quarter of anaphylaxis cases at schools involve young people with no previous allergy who are unlikely to carry a personal epinephrine auto-injector. In 2001, a study found that 28 percent of school-aged children who died due to an allergic reaction, died at school where epinephrine was either not administered or was administered too late.


Durbin's law rewards states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors and train authorized school personnel to administer an epinephrine injection if a student experiences an anaphylactic reaction. It also contains a provision that requires those states to have adequate civil liability laws in place to protect authorized school employees who administer an epinephrine auto-injector to any student believed to be experiencing anaphylaxis. These states will be granted preference for asthma-related grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.


The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is supported by the Food Allergy Research and Education, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics.