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Lawmaker introduces bill requiring 'epi pens' in all school systems

Sen. Christopher B. Shank wants policies in place for treating students with life-threatening allergies

February 15, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Maryland’s public schools would be required to have uniform policies for treating students with life-threatening allergies, under a bill being considered in Annapolis.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, calls for school systems to have epinephrine autoinjectors, or “epi pens,” should a student need a dose to counteract a severe allergic reaction.

School districts would have to train employees on the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which can be triggered in a variety of ways, including a food allergy or a bee sting.

Shank told the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday that his son, Joshua, had a reaction while at school in November and had to be rushed to the hospital.

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“Literally, it can be minutes between life and death,” he said.

Shank said 10 school systems in Maryland have policies on epinephrine and eight do not. Six did not respond to a survey.

Washington County Public Schools do not have a formal policy. School board member Jacqueline B. Fischer said the district is aware that Shank’s bill would require one.

In September, Sharpsburg mother Sarah Price urged Washington County’s school system to focus on how to deal with students who have food allergies.

She said that when her son, who has a potentially life-threatening peanut allergy, entered pre-kindergarten in 2009, he initially had access to an epi pen at school, but couldn’t have one on his school bus.

Shank said that about a quarter of the anaphylactic allergies previously were undiagnosed, according to a study in Massachusetts. Epi pens need to be available for students who didn’t expect to need one.

Last month in Virginia, a girl in first grade died after an allergic attack. CNN reported that the girl ate a peanut she received at school from another child who didn’t know about her allergy.

Ellen Flynn of Ellicott City, Md., testified Wednesday that she’s had to administer epinephrine four times to her daughter, who is now 4, after the girl was exposed to foods thought to be safe.

During the first reaction, at age 11 months, her daughter’s mouth was swollen and she couldn’t breathe, Flynn said.

“She was in a panic,” she said.

Tony Hopko, 11, of Jefferson, Md., told the committee he is allergic to peanut and tree nuts.

Someone could die if epinephrine isn’t administered quickly, Tony said, testifying along with his mother, Dawn Neelan-Hopko.

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