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updated: 4/12/2011 5:23 PM

Schools could take lifesaving action against allergy attacks

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  • State Rep. Chris Nybo

    State Rep. Chris Nybo

By Jeff Engelhardt

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois schoolchildren with food allergies soon could have another safeguard to help combat unexpected or severe reactions.

The Illinois House Tuesday approved a plan from Rep. Chris Nybo that would allow schools to keep a supply of and administer epinephrine, usually via an auto-injector known as an EpiPen.

The legislation would allow school nurses to inject epinephrine into a student who they believe is suffering an allergic reaction, even if the student has not previously been diagnosed with an allergy.

Currently, only students authorized to carry EpiPens can legally be treated at schools or by school nurses.

Nybo, an Elmhurst Republican who sponsored the legislation, said it is important for schools to have the authority because experts say nearly one in four students suffers a first reaction from undiagnosed food allergies while at school.

"Access and availability to epinephrine at schools is very restricted and appropriately so," he said. "But I thought given the number of students with food allergies and the risks that they encounter at schools, we could do something to broaden the availability of lifesaving medication."

In December, a seventh-grade girl at Edison Regional Gifted Center in Chicago died after suffering a severe anaphylactic shock from a food allergy.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan was a driving force behind the legislation as well, stating it is a necessary step to save lives.

"This bill is a critical step to protecting Illinois children with severe allergies who are at risk of potentially deadly reactions," Madigan said in a statement. "Allowing schools to have EpiPens pens on hand is a simple yet crucial safety measure that can prevent tragedy."

The proposal wouldn't force schools to carry the medication, but they can choose to do so if they are willing to pay the $50 to $70 it costs for each EpiPen.

The House approved the measure 113-0 and it will now move to the Senate.