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Federal lawmakers act to protect students' rights to carry emergency medicines in school

FAIRFAX, VA., May 7 -- Representatives Cliff Stearns (Florida) and Patrick Kennedy (Rhode Island) introduced legislation to provide incentives to states to help guarantee the rights of students to carry and treat themselves with prescribed lifesaving asthma and anaphylaxis medications while at school or school-sponsored functions.

The bill aims to ensure that students can carry and self-administer potentially life-saving medicines to treat emergency conditions such as asthma and severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis, at school. The vast majority of schoolchildren with asthma and/or anaphylaxis are currently mandated to attend schools in the 26 states where no state statute protects their rights to a safe and healthy learning experience. The legislation introduced today would provide incentives for state legislatures to address this issue.

"State statutes that fail to protect the rights of children to carry their lifesaving medications put young lives at risk," commented Nancy Sander, president and founder of AANMA. "They also undermine the physician-patient relationship by contradicting the doctor's instructions for students to carry emergency medications with them at all times. The solution to this problem requires both federal and state action, and we applaud Representatives Stearns and Kennedy for taking the lead to effect change."

Currently, state statutes regarding emergency medicines in schools vary widely. Only nine states allow for both inhalers and epinephrine auto-injectors in school (NJ, MA, LA, GA, WI, IL, KY, IN, IA). In addition to these 9, 11 more states have developed statutes protecting children's rights to carry asthma inhalers in schools, but do not allow epinephrine auto-injectors to be carried (states include NY, FL, TX, OH, MI, OR, MN, MO, VA, RI and DE). The New Hampshire and Mississippi state legislatures, two of four states with pending legislation, made marked progress this week by passing bills that would allow students to carry and self-administer medications for both asthma and anaphylaxis. New Hampshire will be the first state to also allow children to carry and self-administer these medications while at camp.

In many instances, all medicines -- including inhalers and epinephrine auto-injectors -- are required to be locked in a nurse's or administrator's office. For children at risk for an asthma attack or anaphylaxis, however, there may not be enough time to retrieve even an inhaler or epinephrine auto-injector from the school nurse's office. If enacted, today's legislation will encourage uniform standards across the country and help ensure the safety of children with asthma and anaphylaxis during the school day.

The legislation enjoys bipartisan support and the endorsement of numerous lay and professional organizations dedicated to the health and safety of American schoolchildren. Some of the organizations joining AANMA in their endorsement of the legislation include: the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the American Association for Health Education, the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, the American College of Chest Physicians, the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).

Source: Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics

Posted: May 2003