CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Public schools in the state may soon be required to stock antidotes to treat severe allergic reactions. A bill containing that requirement unanimously passed the House Tuesday.
When Pattie Iannitti's 11-year-old daughter Jaime went into anaphylactic shock last month at school, the fifth grader had never experienced a life-threatening allergy to peanuts.
"The school nurse was not there that day. Her lips were swollen, she was covered in hives," said Iannitti
Luckily, Iannitti, who was called by school administrators about her daughter’s condition, has a nursing background. She treated her daughter with the Benadryl pill she had in her purse and drove her to the emergency room.
Iannitti, soon joined PAK (Parents of Allergic Kids), a local support group pushing for the legislation. It calls for all school districts to store epinephrine pens to be used in case of in an emergency.
“I liken this to being like a defibrillators in all schools," she said.
Charlotte allergy specialist, Dr. Sanjay Khiani says 25-percent of children will experience their first severe allergic episode while in school.
Under the measure, the injections would be stored at different areas on campus. Trained school personnel will administer the shot, and their decision to do so would be protected under the Good Samaritan Law.
"A lot of schools don't have full time nurses, having a school that remote of part-time-- what happens if it does occur with an unknown child having had no diagnosis?"
Dr. Khiani says the signs of an anaphylactic shock include rash, hives, shortness of breath and a drop in blood pressure. In severe cases it can lead to death if untreated.
“That’s the big concern. Anaphylactic shock can occur within seconds or minutes, so it’s a very time sensitive issue and if you don’t administer epinephrine within the first minute, and you have to sometimes repeat doses, it can have a tragic outcome,” he said.
Dr. Khiani demonstrated to NBC Charlotte how the auto-injecting epi-pens work. Some pens will walk anyone through the process, with a step-by-step voice guide. He hopes school personnel will receive training on a recurrent basis, because identifying the warning signs and taking the necessary action is vital in situations like this.
Iannitti says it gives parents like her, “peace of mind,” that someone will be around at all times to offer emergency aid.
"Even in an event my daughter forgets the epi-pen, or leave it at home or something happens to it at school, that there is a back-up plan in place,” she said.
If passed, the law will go into effect at the start of this school year. The good news is that the first year's supply is already paid for. The makers of the epi-pens have agreed to donate two-sets of pens as part of a national campaign to every school.
A similar measure, Senate Bill 700, is currently in committee.