10.07.09

NEW SCHUMER REPORT: OVER 100,000 NY CHILDREN HAVE POTENTIALLY LIFE-THREATENING FOOD ALLERGIES, BUT SCHOOLS LACK FUNDING, TRAINING, AND PLANNING TO HANDLE REACTIONS, PUTTING LIVES IN DANGER

Number of Children with Food Allergies and Number of Severe Allergic Reactions Have Skyrocketed in Recent YearsMethod Of Handling Severe Allergies Differs From School District To District, And Schools Lack Funding To Train Parents, Children, Faculty And Staff In Prevention And ResponseSchumer Pushes Legislation To Provide Voluntary Federal Guidelines and Funding To Ensure Schools Have The Resources They Need To Keep Our Children Safe

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Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he will push legislation to address the growing problem of potentially lifethreatening allergic reactions in school age children.  Schumer said that despite growing numbers of allergic reactions, schools lack resources to train parents, students, faculty and staff in the best way to prevent and treat these incidents.  He also said that there are no federal guidelines that detail how schools can address student allergies, which has resulted in neighboring school districts, and even neighboring schools, having different policies with wildly different results.

 

Senator Schumer is cosponsoring the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (S. 456), which will develop voluntary national guidelines to help schools and after school programs prevent and treat allergic reactions in the most aggressive and appropriate manner possible and provide funding to implement these strategies. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Chris Dodd (DCT) and Rep. Nita Lowey in the House.

 "Every year, thousands of kids are sent to the emergency room for food allergies, but many of those incidents could be avoided if schools had the proper resources to prevent and respond to severe allergic reactions," said Schumer. "The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act will ensure that schools have access to consistent, uniform food allergy guidelines and resources to help prevent food allergy attacks and deaths."

 A food allergy is an immune system response to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful and, if ingested, is potentially lifethreatening.  A serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death is called Anaphylaxis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, approximately 3 million children under 18 have food allergies (or 4%) and Anaphylaxis causes an estimated 50,000 to 125,000 emergency department visits each year in the United States.  Over the years, the incidence of allergies has increased, especially in children under 18. The CDC reports that from 1997 to 2007, the number of reported food allergies increased 18% among children under age 18 and a 2001 study of 32 fatal foodallergy induced anaphylactic reactions showed that more than half of the individuals were 18 years or younger. 

In New York State an estimated 174,000 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies. Here is how the number breaks down across the state:

·          In the Capital Region, an estimated 8,660 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In Western New York, an estimated 12,940 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In the Rochester Finger Lakes Area, an estimated 10,060 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In the North Country, an estimated 4,520 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In Central New York, an estimated 8,920 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In the Southern Tier, an estimated 5,370 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In the Hudson Valley, an estimated 22,910 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In Long Island, an estimated 26,240 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

·          In NYC, an estimated 74,350 individuals 18 years and younger have food allergies.

While any food can potentially cause an allergic reaction, 8 foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions.  They are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.   These are extremely common foods in society so avoiding them completely is a near impossibility, especially in settings outside the home, such as schools, where children spend most of their day.

Despite these facts, there are no federal guidelines concerning the management of lifethreatening food allergies in the school setting.  Many school districts lack the funding necessary to implement a food allergy management plan and the school's method for handling school allergies differ across districts.

In addition, parents of children with severe food allergies often face different food allergy management approaches when their children change schools.  This lack of consistency underscores the need for uniform guidance from the Federal government for the management of lifethreatening food allergies. 

The legislation directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, working with the Secretary of Education, to draw up guidelines that address the following:

(1) Parental obligation to provide the school or early childhood education program with information about the child's food allergy, prior to the start of every school year;

(2) The creation and maintenance of an individual plan for food allergy management, in consultation with the parent, tailored to the needs of each child with a documented risk for anaphylaxis, including any procedures for the selfadministration of medication by such children in instances where;

(3) Communication strategies between individual schools or early childhood education programs and providers of emergency medical services, including appropriate instructions for emergency medical response;

(4) Strategies to reduce the risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents in classrooms and common school or early childhood education program areas such as cafeterias;

(5) The dissemination of general information on lifethreatening food allergies to school or early childhood education program staff, parents, and children;

(6) Food allergy management training of school or early childhood education program personnel who regularly come into contact with children with lifethreatening food allergies;

(7) The authorization and training of school or early childhood education program personnel to administer epinephrine when the nurse is not immediately available;

(8) The timely accessibility of epinephrine by school or early childhood education program personnel when the nurse is not immediately available;

(9) The creation of a plan that addresses the appropriate response to an incident of anaphylaxis of a child while such child is engaged in extracurricular programs of a school or early childhood education program, such as nonacademic outings and field trips, before and afterschool programs or before and afterearly child education program programs, and schoolsponsored or early childhood education programsponsored programs held on weekends.

(10) Maintenance of information for each administration of epinephrine to a child at risk for anaphylaxis and prompt notification to parents.

To ensure that critical resources and uniform information is provided to schools and school administrators, Senator Schumer today announced that he will be pushing the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act, which will help educate schools, parents and the public about the dangers associated with food allergies and anaphylaxis.

The bill will develop guidelines to be used on a voluntary basis to develop plans to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood education programs. The legislation will provide for a consistent approach to food allergy management guidelines for schools to consider implementing and will provide grants of up to $50,000 to local educational agencies that choose to implement those guidelines in K12 public schools. 

 

The legislation has widespread, bipartisan support in both Houses.  The Senate bill has 28 cosponsors and the House bill has 44. 

 

"Food allergies are a serious threat that should be monitored closely," Schumer added. "This bill will give parents some piece of mind knowing that when they send their kids to school they will be in an environment where their teachers and nurses are trained to prevent and react to an allergic reaction."

 

 



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