Bill proves it saves lives

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

As a state elected official, every so often we have the opportunity to work on legislation that can truly save lives. Such a bill happened last year, and once it was signed into law, it proved its worth in short order.

The new law allows school districts in Ohio to stock epinephrine medication for anyone who might need it. Having emergency epinephrine on hand is especially important for children who may have undiagnosed allergies to certain foods or insect stings.

It is estimated that one in 13 children has a food allergy. Ask any teacher or principal, and they will tell you that they give attention to food allergies. It’s serious business. A severe reaction to certain foods such as peanuts or dairy products can result in anaphylaxis, a critical and potentially life-threatening condition. Anaphylaxis closes the airway and shuts down vital organs. Epinephrine can halt it, and stabilize the person until medical help is provided.

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For many Ohioans, the idea of epinephrine at school may seem like a slam dunk. But it wasn’t that easy. In fact, legislators had to work the ball in order to pass the best bill possible. We started working on the school epinephrine bill in the 129th General Assembly (we are currently the 131st General Assembly).

As the lead sponsor of this bill, I thought it was necessary that we take the time to fully understand the issue of allergic reactions and how school personnel can intervene in an emergency. We heard from experts, examined similar laws in other states, addressed necessary training, storage and liability issues, and answered stakeholders’ questions and concerns in order to arrive at a good law that can save lives.

And it already has. This past school year in the Akron area, two children in the same school district suffered life-threatening allergic reactions, one to peanuts and the other to pineapple. Both were saved when a school staff member with medical training used the emergency epinephrine the school had stocked in response to the new law.

Akron is a great example too of how a community implemented epinephrine in school buildings. Akron Children’s Hospital has a great partnership with city schools for health programming, and has helped with the placement of epinephrine medication in school buildings.

Other schools have used the expertise of nurses, allergists and pediatricians to help stock epinephrine in school buildings. The medical experts have helped to train to prepare school staff on the use of epinephrine.

Our hope is that schools across Ohio execute this potential life-saving measure. Readers should check with their districts to find out if they plan to stock epinephrine. If a school needs help in implementation, officials should check with a local physician, including allergists, as well as pharmacists or a state licensed school nurse.

I am pleased too that legislators’ work to ensure epinephrine availability has not stopped at school buildings. Rep. Christina Hagan, R-50, has introduced House Bill 200 in this General Assembly session. This bill will allow other entities, such as restaurants, sports facilities, child care centers and other public places that serve food, to stock epinephrine should they choose to do so.

With the prevalence of serious allergic reactions to certain foods, or insect stings, it makes sense to extend epinephrine availability as widely as possible.


Terry Johnson is a Republican state representative of the 90th District.