Durbin, Kirk Announce Passage of Their Bill to Protect School Children with Allergies

Senators’ Bill Expanding Access to Epinephrine Injectors in Schools Now Moves to President’s Desk

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) said today that students with severe allergies will be safer at school following Congress' passage of their legislation encouraging states across the nation to improve school access to epinephrine auto-injectors.  The devices are used if students have life threatening anaphylactic reactions. After moving through the House this summer, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act passed the Senate last week and now heads to the President's desk to be signed into law later this month.


“For about 1 in every 13 of American children, school lunchtime or a classmate's birthday party can risk exposure to foods that can cause a severe and life threatening reaction. But the fatal consequences of severe allergic reaction are preventable,” said Durbin. “The Senate 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 legislation would reward 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. The bill also contains a provision that requires those states to have “Good Samaritan” laws in place to protect school employees who administer an epinephrine auto-injector to any student believed to be experiencing anaphylaxis. These states would be granted preference for asthma-related grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.


The bill 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.


Although students with severe allergies are currently 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.


The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is also 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.