As the parent of a child with life-threatening food allergies, I urge Connecticut senators to pass HB 5521 and enable all schools in the state to stock life-saving epinephrine in the event that a child has an anaphylactic attack – a severe allergic reaction – in school. The clock is ticking, and with only a few days left until the end of this legislative session, it is frightening to think that the ability to save a child’s life will be put on hold for yet another year. This is simply not acceptable.
My son’s first allergic reaction was in a school setting, and his story illustrates the importance of providing epinephrine in all schools so that all our children have immediate access to life-saving treatment.
When Ben was 4, I received a panicked call from the preschool director. She reported that he had large welts on his face and that his eyes were beginning to swell shut. I raced to the school and when I arrived, Ben’s face was so swollen that he was barely recognizable. As I grabbed him and raced out the door, one of the teachers yelled after me….”Make sure to tell the doctor he was working with peanut butter.”
Apparently that morning, the children were making birdfeeders, which entailed rolling a pinecone in peanut butter and then seeds. Up to that point, Ben had never had an allergic reaction and had eaten many foods that had been cross-contaminated with nuts. We had no history of food allergy in the family and had no idea he had an allergy. Ben had not eaten the peanut butter that morning, but the touch alone was enough to set off his reaction and each time I reflect on that morning, I realize how fortunate we were to have gotten him to the doctor’s office in time to get the appropriate treatment – epinephrine.
That day started a new chapter in our life – one where we became educated about food allergies and anaphylaxis. The most important thing that we learned is that time is NOT on our side. Epinephrine is the only course of treatment when the body goes into anaphylaxis, and the sooner epinephrine is given, the better the chance for survival. The terrible reality – one that haunts families of allergic kids every day – is the fact that once anaphylaxis progresses past a certain point, it is not always reversible with the epinephrine. This means, the longer one waits to administer treatment, the higher the chance for a fatal outcome.
To me, this is all so simple. There is no reason for children to die, simply because epinephrine is unable to be administered. Recent studies have shown that 24 percent of first-time anaphylactic reactions have occurred in school settings. This means that those children have not yet been diagnosed, and therefore do not have a prescription for epinephrine.
The Connecticut House understands the urgency of access and recently passed HB 5521. It now awaits a vote in the Senate, but this needs to happen in the next few days in order to save lives. Therefore, I am urging all Connecticut senators: Let’s work together to protect these children by giving them immediate access to life-saving treatment and ensure that there are no longer needless deaths because epinephrine was unable to be administered in time.
Weston resident Stacy Kamisar is a member of FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education).