On Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 2094, School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, into law. The legislation provides asthma-related grant incentives to states that have their schools keep a supply of epinephrine autoinjectors (or EpiPens) in an easily accessible source, allow trained personnel to use the devices on students in case of an emergency, and require at least one such trained staff member to be on the grounds during all operating hours.
EpiPens are life-saving devices that can be used on people experiencing anaphylaxis — a serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction that can cause rapid swelling of the throat and tongue alongside hives, itchiness, and flushing. These severe reactions can occur in people who have certain food allergies, including to peanuts, shellfish, fish, wheat, milk, and eggs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between four and six percent of American children have food allergies. That’s equal to roughly two children in every classroom, and children with these food allergies are also much more likely to have asthma, making anaphylaxis particularly dangerous for them. The CDC estimates that over 300,000 children have to go to the emergency room because of a food allergy every year.
“This is something that will save children’s lives,” said the president in a statement. “Some people may know that [my daughter] Malia actually has a peanut allergy. She doesn’t have asthma, but obviously making sure that EpiPens are available in case of emergency in schools is something that every parent can understand.”