New Law Gives Schools Greater Access to EpiPens for Students With Severe Allergies

New Law Gives Schools Greater Access to EpiPens for Students With Severe Allergies


A new law just signed by Governor Cuomo gives schools greater access to epinephrine, a medication that could potentially save the life of a student suffering from a severe allergic reaction.

The measure allows schools to keep EpiPens on hand to be administered to students who suffer from an anaphylactic reaction, even if they don't have a prescription for the medication and have never had a previous attack.

Dr. Cindy Devore, medical director or consultant for 15 Rochester-area school districts, says it's more dangerous to not give epinephrine to someone who needs it than to administer the medication to someone who turns out not to have suffered an allergic reaction.

"The faster that epinephrine is given to that individual and that individual is transported to the hospital emergency department, the more likely there will be a positive outcome,” Devore said. “The longer delay, even giving that medication ten minutes after a child has had a reaction, can be too long."

Dr. Devore said auto-injectable EpiPens are pre-measured doses of epinephrine designed for use by non-medical lay people.

"And so people should not be afraid to pick up one of those pens if they think a child is having a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction and use it as soon as they recognize that that's the potential."

The legislation allows for non-medical school staff, including teachers, secretaries and administrators, to administer the pre-measured, injectable medication to students if they have undergone training.

Dr. Devore says that part of the legislation is not new, but many school districts have either not had nurses on hand to provide training, or unlicensed professionals did not want to assume the legal risk.

"What I do not want people to do is walk away thinking is that because a law like this has been put into effect, it means that we do not need school nurses,” Devore said. “We need school nurses more than we ever did. In fact, there is a study showing that having school nurses in school buildings has a cost benefit to society at large."  

New York State education law requires schools to have a medical director, but does not require school nurses.

By Beth Adams/WXXI