Champaign County Schools Have Emergency Medication Available- Thanks to the Generosity of Donors and Commitment of Schools to Continue Trainings
More than 80 public and private schools in the Champaign County area are working to ensure that everyone in their schools have access to medication in case of a severe allergic reaction.
It might be the difference between life and death.
Once reserved only for students with designated food allergies, epinephrine auto-injectors – more commonly known as Epipens – are now available as a standard protocol in most Champaign County area schools.
These Epipens can be used for anyone who would need them, said Amy Jessup, nurse practitioner and coordinator of the Carle Food Allergy Education Program.
Although Illinois passed a law in 2011 allowing schools to stock and use prescription medicine that can save the lives of students with severe allergic reactions, fewer than one-third of Illinois’ 852 school districts reported having a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors during the 2016-2017 school year.
Children are often trying new and unfamiliar foods at school, Jessup said. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the world’s largest private funder of food allergy research, approximately 20-25 percent of epinephrine administrations in schools involve individuals whose allergy was unknown at the time of the reaction.
Jessup said that there has been a very positive reaction to Carle’s school Epipen program. She indicates that there is not a legal risk to having them in the schools, and there is little risk to use them.
“It is better to use it one too many times that one not enough,” she reiterated. “Epipens are also helpful for venom and bee stings. Our community alone has seen at least 10 lives saved from access to non-designated epipens during community events. They do not just protect the students, as they have also been utilized for family members of children attending events at the schools, as well as staff members.”
The emergency Epipens are typically located in an easily accessible area – often near the cafeteria, gymnasium, or commons area – and kept in a locked cabinet.
Although there are keys available, in the event of emergency where expediency is critical, adults can use an attached hammer to break the cabinet’s plexiglass protection.
The cabinets were funded through a grant from the Carle Women’s Legacy Circle grant through philanthropy. Inside the cabinet are two Epipens with different doses, one for children weighing 35-65 pounds and a higher dose for those above 65 pounds.
The Illinois State Board of Education requires yearly hands-on training in order for schools to be authorized to have the Epipens on site. Carle recommends that schools undergo the full training every two years (at no cost to the school) and that employees complete computer module training on the off years in order to refresh their skills.
Jessup cautioned that the onsite Epipens should be used to supplement, not replace, plans to treat a child with a known allergy. The Illinois State Board of Education requires children with known food/environmental allergies to have an emergency action plan in place with directives from a physician as to how to assist that child when s/he has been exposed to an allergen. Parents/guardians also should make sure that individual Epipens and Benadryl are not expired on a frequent basis.
If you have any questions about food allergies or how to help your child navigate the maze of food allergies, please contact your physician for more information.
For more info about heading back to school:
Part 1: Champaign-Urbana Area School Registration Information
Part 2: Champaign-Urbana Metro Area First Day of School Dates
Part 3: Back to School: Vision, Dental, Physical Exams Required for Illinois Schoolchildren
Part 4: Back to School: Immunizations Required for Illinois Schoolchildren
Part 5: Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten
Part 6: Back to School Shopping on a Budget
Part 7: Preparing Your Child for a New School