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(BPT) - Most people take for granted childhood experiences that mark the end of a school year — a class picnic, a school bake sale or even a game of dodgeball in the schoolyard. But these activities can be a challenge for parents of children with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies.
May is Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, but it is always important for schools and families with children who have diagnosed severe allergies to work together to know the facts and have an action plan should a life-threatening allergic reaction — anaphylaxis — occur. With an estimated one in 13 U.S. children living with a food allergy that puts them at risk for anaphylaxis, a child with severe allergies may be found in almost every classroom, and awareness and access is a year-long commitment.
In addition, anaphylaxis awareness in schools doesn’t end with the management of known severe allergies. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25 percent of anaphylactic reactions in schools occur in children with peanut and tree nut allergies who did not have a previous food allergy diagnosis. This means a child could experience their first life-threatening allergic reaction at school — a reality that school nurses and administrators face every day.
That is why Mylan offers the EpiPen4Schools® program, which helps improve access to epinephrine in the event a person experiences anaphylaxis in the school setting by providing free epinephrine auto-injectors, a treatment for anaphylaxis, to kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools nationwide. To date, Mylan has provided more than 850,000 free epinephrine auto-injectors to more than 72,000 schools.
How often does anaphylaxis occur in schools, and what should schools be doing to be prepared for anaphylaxis if it does occur?
According to data from schools that have participated in EpiPen4Schools®, more than 1,100 incidents of anaphylaxis occurred across more than 6,500 U.S. schools during one school year.
All schools in states with stock epinephrine laws should have on hand undesignated epinephrine, also known as stock epinephrine, in case someone with a known allergy has forgotten their epinephrine auto-injectors at home or someone with no known allergy experiences anaphylaxis.
What are some best practices for parents to help manage severe allergies at school?
If a child has a known severe allergy, his or her parents should have an anaphylaxis action plan on file at their school, which should include avoiding known allergens, knowing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors at all times, and instructing others to get immediate emergency medical help should anaphylaxis occur.
And now that we’re nearing the end of the school year, parents should pick up the epinephrine auto-injectors kept at school for their child, check the expiration date on the devices and ensure that next school year, they are providing current medication to the school.
In addition, exposure to potential new allergens at school — such as swapping food in the cafeteria or participating in school parties with homemade snacks — increases the risk of a first-time reaction at school. This makes having immediate access to epinephrine a crucial best practice for managing severe allergies at school.
Contact the school nurse to find out if the school district provides stock epinephrine. If it doesn’t, direct the school nurse to EpiPen4Schools.com to learn more.
EpiPen® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.3 mg and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors are for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) caused by allergens, exercise, or unknown triggers; and for people who are at increased risk for these reactions. EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are intended for immediate administration as emergency supportive therapy only. Seek immediate emergency medical help right away.
Important Safety Information
Use EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors right away when you have an allergic emergency (anaphylaxis). Get emergency medical help right away. You may need further medical attention. Only a health care professional should give additional doses of epinephrine if you need more than two injections for a single anaphylactic episode. EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® should only be injected into the middle of your outer thigh (upper leg), through clothing if necessary. Do not inject into your veins, buttocks, fingers, toes, hands or feet. Hold the leg of young children firmly in place before and during injection to prevent injuries. In case of accidental injection, please seek immediate medical treatment.
Rarely, patients who have used EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® may develop an infection at the injection site within a few days. Some of these infections can be serious. Call your health care professional right away if you have any of the following at an injection site: redness that does not go away, swelling, tenderness, or the area feels warm to the touch.
Tell your health care professional about all of your medical conditions, especially if you have asthma, a history of depression, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems, have any other medical conditions, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Be sure to also tell your health care professional all the medicines you take, especially medicines for asthma. If you have certain medical conditions, or take certain medicines, your condition may get worse or you may have longer lasting side effects when you use EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr®.
Common side effects include fast, irregular or “pounding” heartbeat, sweating, nausea or vomiting, breathing problems, paleness, dizziness, weakness, shakiness, headache, feelings of over excitement, nervousness or anxiety. These side effects usually go away quickly if you lie down and rest. Tell your health care professional if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
Please see the full Prescribing Information and Patient Information.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA.
Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
For additional information, please contact us at 800-395-3376.
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EpiPen®, EpiPen Jr® and EpiPen4Schools® are registered trademarks owned by Mylan Inc.
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