I have been wanting to write a blog about food allergy for awhile. It is something I feel passionate about. I had not really thought much about food allergy until my oldest, at 9 or 10 months, had an allergic reaction after he touched a plate that had fried eggs on it. One trip to the ER, a few doses of steroids, and a blood test later, we found out that he was allergic to peanut and egg. Life would never be the same.
There are two types of people in the world; people who have food allergies (or have kids/relatives/friends with food allergies) and people who do not. I am a parent of a child (children actually) with food allergies. I am neurotic. I only buy non-chocolate Halloween candy to hand out because the chocolate is processed with peanuts and I know that at least some of the kids that I will hand out to will not be able to eat it. I read every label; every label, every time, because ingredients change. I worry every single time my child is in the care of anyone but me. I have $1750 worth of Epipens scattered with every person who cares for my children on a regular basis. I carry an Epipen with me everywhere I go. My guard is never down. I live in fear of my child coming into contact with peanut butter that might be left on a child’s hand after eating his lunch. First, I taught my son to ask an adult before he eats anything that was given to him by anyone but us. I recently had to teach him, at the age of 6, how to spell “peanut” after an adult that should have known better gave him (and told him it was okay to eat) a treat bag that contained a Butterfinger, among other things that he is also allergic to. People who do not have food allergies (or close relatives/friends with food allergies) do not think about these things. But they should.
I was recently frustrated by the amount of Epipens that I supply; a set for home, a set for each school (preschool for my middle son and elementary for my oldest), a set for after-school care, a set for my sister-in-law that watches the littles. My pharmacy charges $350 for Epipens, my co-pay is $27. You can go here to save up to $100 of your co-pay. And, oh yeah, they expire. Usually within less than a year. This week I got another set of Epipens and they expire in October 2014.
I had remembered reading that there was pending legislation to keep Epipens stocked in schools. I did a little Google research and found out that the legislation went through in December. Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that requires public schools to keep two Epipens stocked and at least two employees have to be trained in how to administer the Epipens. Additionally, President Barack Obama had previously signed into law an act encouraging states to take such measures. This is huge, especially when you consider that up to 25% of allergic reaction that occur in schools and require epinephrine are in people that were not aware that they had food allergies. This is why people who do not have food allergies should care, because maybe you (or your child) actually do.
This bill is a great first step.
We need to do better.
It is troublesome to me that my child could have an allergic reaction in any room in the school, but his Epipen is locked up somewhere in the office. It bothers me that only two (TWO!) staff members have to be educated in how to administer an Epipen. What if they are both sick that day? What if they are at the complete opposite end of the school? What if the adult he is with has no knowledge of the signs of allergic reaction, specifically anaphylaxis, and does not recognize that he needs an Epipen in the first place? Everyone should find this bothersome, not just me, because any one of those children could have an unknown food allergy and could suffer a life threatening reaction.
I think that every school employee needs to be educated in the signs of allergic reaction and administration of an Epipen. I also think that Epipens should be readily available, not locked up in one place. People might argue, what are the odds that a child will have an allergic reaction at school? I do not know the answer to that, but I do know that I have been a physical therapist for almost 10 years and I recertify my CPR every other year. Thankfully, I have never once had to perform CPR, but I am sure that my patients are thankful that I have that skill should they require it. Education regarding food allergy and administration of Epipens should be compulsory for those working in a school considering that roughly 2 children per classroom have a food allergy and up to 25% of allergic reactions requiring epinephrine in schools are in people that were unaware of their allergy.
I know nothing of how to get legislation put through, but this is my mission. Mark my words. This will happen. This is not just for my kids, this is for all kids.