Kids With Food Allergies Need Medicine Nearby
Some Children Leave Lifesaving Epinephrine Medicine at Home, Study Finds
WebMD News Archive
March 3, 2010 (New Orleans) -- Some children with peanut allergies are at
risk of potentially fatal allergic reactions because they don't have their
lifesaving epinephrine medication on them at school, Canadian researchers
At issue are autoinjectors such as EpiPen or Twinject -- syringes filled
with epinephrine and encased in a self-injecting device that can be used
anywhere, anytime. For a person with food allergies, they're the first line of
defense against anaphylaxis,
a life-threatening condition characterized by difficulty breathing and loss of
"Previous studies show the major factor controlling whether an anaphylactic
reaction is fatal is whether or not the victim is carrying an EpiPen on
himself," says Moshe Ben-Shoshan, MD, a research fellow in allergy at McGill
University Health Center in Montreal.
"That means keeping the EpiPen on you, not in the locker or the nurse's
office," he tells WebMD.
Ben-Shoshan references a young schoolgirl in Quebec who died from a fatal
allergic reaction before she could get to her EpiPen in her unlocked school
About Two-Thirds of Children Carry EpiPens at School
The researchers interviewed the parents of 706 children, aged 5 to 8, with
documented peanut allergies throughout Canada.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of
Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (AAAAI).
Sixty-eight percent of parents said their children carried an autoinjector
with them to school, starting just shy of their sixth birthday, on average. Of
those, 80% said they believe that their child actually knows how to use the
Nearly three-quarters of the children who didn't have an EpiPen on their
bodies kept it in the classroom or school nurse's office, but only two-thirds
of these classrooms and offices were staffed by personnel who knew how to use
About one-third of children who didn't carry an EpiPen attended schools that
forbid them, Ben-Shoshan says.
No Set Age to Start Carrying EpiPen
There's no consensus regarding the age at which a child should start carry
an autoinjector, he says. "It depends on the maturity of the child and if he
knows how to use it," he says.
"But the decision shouldn't be made by the parents alone, but by the
parents, teacher, and allergist," Ben-Shoshan says.
The majority of states have enacted legislation allowing peanut-allergic
students to carry their EpiPens with them at school, and the AAAAI is
supporting legislation extending the rule to all states, according to AAAAI
outgoing president Paul Greenberger, MD, professor of allergy and immunology at
the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
But it's not always practical for children to carry the EpiPens on their
bodies, he says.
"It should be nearby, though -- not left at home," he tells WebMD.