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Schools Carrying Epinephrine can Save Lives

Update Date: Nov 07, 2014 10:03 AM EST

When schools stock up on emergency epinephrine, more lives are saved, a new study reported. Epinephrine is used to treat an allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, which could, otherwise, lead to death.

"Stocking emergency epinephrine is a medical necessity for schools in every state," said allergist Bryan Martin, DO, the vice president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "In addition to protecting those whose epinephrine auto-injector isn't immediately accessible during a reaction, stock supplies help save the lives of those who experience an anaphylactic reaction and don't have a prescribed epinephrine auto-injector."

For this study, the researchers set out to see how often stock epinephrine was used in Chicago's public schools (CPS). Overall, the team reported that epinephrine was used 38 times on adults and children during the 2012-2013 school year. 35 of the cases, or 92 percent were children and the remaining three (eight percent) were school staff members. The majority of the cases occurred in elementary schools and in 76 percent of the cases, a nurse administered the epinephrine.

The most common cause of an allergic reaction was peanuts at 55 percent. The second most common known trigger, at 13 percent, was fin fish, which included salmon, tuna and flounder. The researchers noted that in 34 percent of the cases, the allergen could not be identified.

"We were surprised to see that of those who received the epinephrine, more than half of the reactions were first time incidents," said Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, lead study author, reported in the press release. "Many children are trying foods for the first time at school and therefore it is critical that schools are prepared for a possible anaphylactic reaction."

An estimated 15 percent of school-aged children have some kind of food allergy. Due to the dangers of a severe allergic reaction, 41 states have epinephrine laws that are either enforced or in the process of being implemented.

The research was presented at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting.

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