CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia education officials are considering allowing teachers to give emergency injections of epinephrine to any student who has a severe allergic reaction.
A policy proposed by the Department of Education would put epinephrine auto-injectors called EpiPens in public schools. Teachers, secretaries and other aides could receive training from nurses to administer the EpiPens, the most common self-injectable form of epinephrine. The auto-injectors contain adrenaline and treat anaphylaxis, a life-threatening, body-wide allergic reaction.
The state's existing policy doesn't allow a student to receive an EpiPen injection if he or she doesn't have a prescription or prior diagnosis.
School nurses have been pushing for the policy change for years, said Becky King, a registered nurse who oversees the Department of Education's health programs.
"In rural West Virginia, this is huge because by the time we do get emergency services to respond, it could be too late," King told the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1gjRcjb). "It puts schools in a bad situation. We're just always taught not to use other people's medicine. What if we did use it, and right after that, something happens to the child who actually had the prescription?"
"This will provide us with medications that aren't assigned to anyone - they're just for those who may have an anaphylactic reaction."
Mylan Laboratories would sponsor the EpiPen program, which would be voluntary. Schools in counties that choose to participate in the program could receive up to four EpiPens at no cost.
Public comment will be accepted on the proposal until Nov. 9.
If the policy is approved, it would be effective no later than December, King said.
"I think that there's hesitation ... but epinephrine is more of a benefit than anything. Give the EpiPen immediately because you just never know," she said. "In four minutes, you could have brain damage and airway obstruction ... and your body ends up closing down and eventually you die."
One in 13 children under the age of 18 has food allergies, and a significant portion of severe allergic reactions that occur at school are among students with no prior allergy diagnosis, according to Food Allergy Research & Education.