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A good shot at saving lives

While Congress may be bitterly divided over the Affordable Health Care Act, a bipartisan group of senators is pushing another health-related bill that deserves swift passage and implementation.
It’s a simple measure that isn’t likely to provoke a Supreme Court challenge, but it could save some youngsters’ lives.
The bill, cosponored by Sen. Kay Hagan, would encourage more schools across the country to make sure they have life-saving medication quickly within reach when children have an allergic reaction to food, an insect sting or other causes. In some cases, such reactions can be fatal, but they also often can be countered with epinephrine auto-injectors — such as the EpiPen — if administered soon after an attack begins.
The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act would reward states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine injectors and permit trained school personnel to administer an injection if a student experiences an anaphylactic reaction. States that participate would receive preference for asthma-related grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, schools would be required to establish and maintain a plan for having trained personnel to administer epinephrine if a student had an allergic reaction. A companion bill has been introduced in the House.
Allergic reactions among children have increased in recent years, according to medical experts. It’s currently estimated that 5-6 percent of youngsters may be at risk, which translates into millions of children across the nation. Many parents of potentially vulnerable children already take steps to make sure school personnel are aware of any allergies and the need for urgent treatment in the event of an exposure. Sometimes, however, allergic reactions strike unexpectedly, despite preventative measures. As Hagan notes in a news release, ““For these students, exposure to the wrong snack or food at lunch can quickly become fatal. This legislation ensures trained school personnel can administer epinephrine in the critical minutes following an allergic reaction and save a child’s life.”
Expanding access to these injections and having school staff trained in their use just makes sense. For modest costs in supplies and training, it would give students with allergies and their parents an extra margin of safety. Congress should seize this opportunity to make these lifesaving measures available at every school.

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