U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was in Dayton Thursday promoting a newly-passed federal law that aims to protect kids with allergies. Brown is also urging passage of a state law in Ohio that would make the allergy drug epinephrine, usually known as the EpiPen, widely available in schools.
The federal law signed by President Obama in November offers priority for grant money to states that require EpiPens and trained personnel in all elementary and secondary schools. Millions of children across the country have allergies of some kind, and some can be very dangerous and hard to detect.
“This is in no way alarmist, this isn’t a public health disaster,” said Sen. Brown, “this is simply something we know how to prevent, we know how to deal with.”
Right now in Ohio, schools can supply EpiPens only where a student already has a known allergy. Unfortunately, allergies are on the rise in the United States.
Still, Virginia Noe, the director of health services for the Dayton Public Schools, said life-threatening allergic reactions are rare, particularly since DPS banned peanuts and shellfish and most students eat the school-supplied food.
“But we don’t want to rely on that, because you never know when it could be something we are serving that they react to,” she said. EpiPens can interrupt anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction to allergies or environmental stimuli, and she says there are few risks associated with administering the drug even to children whose condition is unclear.
HB 296, a bill that would allow schools to supply and use the pens even if they don’t have a student with a known allergy, passed the Ohio house in November. Sen. Brown is pushing for the quick passage of that bill, and for further legislation that would give Ohio access to the federal funds.
Correction: A pervious audio version of the story described the teaching injector as a "teaching EpiPen." That designation is incorrect. EpiPen is a brand name, and the epinephrine injection trainer product used in the story is produced by another company.