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Legislation is needed to help prevent deaths from anaphylaxis

By on August 12, 2012

The following is a guest post from Bri Anne McKeon, a medical school graduate, living with severe life-threatening food allergies that put her at risk for anaphylaxis.

I’ve lived with severe food allergies for my entire life and have always been cautious about what I eat to avoid having a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Unfortunately, deaths due to anaphylactic shock cause 150 to 200 deaths per year. While there isn’t a cure for my food allergies, I am thankful there is treatment available.

I’ve recently graduated from the University of Florida with my medical degree. One of the reasons I decided to become a doctor is due to my experiences living with a severe food allergy. At an early age, I became familiar with a small medical device called an auto-injector.

Epinephrine auto-injectors are pre-measured doses of epinephrine that are used to treat emergency anaphylactic shock. I carry my auto-injector with me everywhere, everyday. These devices buy you time when you need it most and when it comes to anaphylaxis, every second counts.

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening reaction that occurs when you come into contact with an allergen such as a peanut or if you are stung by an insect. When a person goes into anaphylactic shock, their throat swells up and blocks the flow of air, causing death within minutes.

In my own experience, when I come into contact with dairy products, eggs and peanuts an epinephrine injection could save my life.  When I attended a private school in Hillsborough County my medical needs were often seen as a liability. In Florida, there are many schools that do not stock auto-injectors on campus. This lack of emergency treatment puts children at risk and could cost them their life.

For the 6 million children in the U.S. with severe food allergies, access to epinephrine auto-injectors is crucial. That’s why it is so important to have emergency treatment for anaphylaxis available in schools and to provide required training for anyone who supervises a child, whether that is at school or at a summer camp.

Currently, federal legislation has been proposed that will allow schools to have an emergency epinephrine injectors on hand to be administered by a nurse of other trained school employee in case a student experiences a food allergy reaction. If an anaphylactic reaction were to occur, the child would receive immediate treatment versus waiting for EMS to arrive.

I urge you to contact your U.S. Senators and tell them you support the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. If the law passes, every state would receive grant money to implement this program.

By providing schools with the necessary equipment, we can work to protect children from potentially deadly allergic reactions.

As a survivor of an anaphylactic reaction, I know the importance of having the injectors readily accessible – every second counts.

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