Under a plan from U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin of Illinois, states go toward the front of the line for certain federal grants if they require schools to carry epinephrine pens that can help fight off allergic attacks.
Food allergies are common among children, and quick use of epinephrine against a reaction can help when someone suffers a severe attack.
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"Every child should have access to swift, safe lifesaving medication in the event of an allergic reaction," Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, said in a statement.
Illinois law allows schools to keep epinephrine pens around, and nurses or trained staff are allowed to use them in an emergency. To qualify for preferential treatment under the federal proposal, Illinois would have to change its law to require the pens to be kept around, said Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.
The requirement could help states get federal grants for asthma-related programs.
"For about 1 in every 13 of America's children, school lunchtime or a classmate's school birthday party can risk exposure to foods that can cause a severe and life-threatening reaction," Durbin said.
The proposal has already cleared the U.S. House and would go to President Barack Obama if the Senate approves.