Nearly six million American children are at risk of anaphylaxis, a systemic allergic reaction that can cause asphyxiation, extremely low blood pressure and, if untreated, even death. Although common triggers include adverse drug reactions and insect venom from stings or bites, food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside of the hospital setting and are the most frequent trigger for children, teens and young adults. Each year in the United States, it is estimated that food allergies result in 150 deaths, 2,000 hospitalizations and 30,000 episodes of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine. If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to death in a matter of minutes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that “food allergies are a particular concern in the school environment,” and has funded the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) development of policy guidance for school leaders on the essential role of schools in protecting students with life-threatening or serious food allergies. Each state and school district have their own policies regarding how to manage food allergies and anaphylaxis in school, but there are general provisions adopted in each state, as noted in the NSBA guidance document.
This issue brief describes the problem of food allergies and anaphylaxis in school-aged children, and discusses state and federal legislative reform efforts to prevent and treat severe allergic reactions in schools.
This 50-state compilation provides a summary of state laws addressing EpiPen use in schools for all 50 states.