(BPT) – With the school year well underway, students and teachers have fallen comfortably into their daily routines. Diversions ”“ Celebration! Field trip! New lunch in the cafeteria! ”“ are greeted with excitement, but for children with potentially life-threatening allergies, it’s important to remember that part of their routine must be to always avoid their allergic triggers.

Even still, accidental exposure to allergens can happen, so it’s important for schools to be prepared if a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) occurs. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death, either through swelling that shuts off airways or through a significant drop in blood pressure.

Responding to the nationwide need for schools to have access to emergency epinephrine, Mylan Specialty L.P. launched the EpiPen4SchoolsTM program. Since the program’s launch, thousands of schools across the country have elected to participate and receive free EpiPen® (epinephrine) or EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors. EpiPen Auto-Injector has been the No. 1 prescribed epinephrine auto-injector for 25 years.

“It is important to develop a comprehensive anaphylaxis action plan, which includes avoiding known allergens, recognizing symptoms, having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors and seeking immediate emergency medical care should anaphylaxis occur,” advises Ruchi Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and a health services researcher at Northwestern University and Children’s Memorial Hospital. “Once a plan is in place, schools are much better prepared in the event someone experiences anaphylaxis ”“ possibly for the first time ”“ while on their grounds.”

According to the food allergy guidelines developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), epinephrine is the only first-line treatment for anaphylaxis and should be available at all times, in the form of two doses, to people at risk for anaphylaxis. According to the guidelines, if experiencing anaphylaxis, a person should use an epinephrine auto-injector and seek immediate emergency medical attention.

The program offers four free EpiPen or EpiPen Jr  Auto-Injectors, upon qualification, which includes having a valid prescription, to public and private kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools in the U.S. There is no requirement for a school to purchase additional EpiPen Auto-Injectors or any other Mylan Specialty products. Further information and program registration details can be found on www.EpiPen4Schools.com.

“When anaphylaxis occurs, treatment must be immediate ”“ every minute matters,” urges Dr. Gupta. “Being prepared to respond is important for schools across the nation because children and adolescents are among those most at risk for anaphylaxis.”

How Schools Can be Prepared

Schools should be prepared to manage life-threatening allergies and to respond should anaphylaxis occur. Here are some tips to help schools be better prepared for anaphylaxis:

Students with known potentially life-threatening allergies should have an anaphylaxis action plan on file that includes the following:

  • Avoiding known allergens
  • Recognizing the symptoms
  • Always having access to two EpiPen Auto-Injectors
  • Seeking immediate emergency medical care

A survey conducted in 109 Massachusetts school districts from 2001 to 2003 evaluating the use of epinephrine for anaphylaxis management in schools found that 24% of anaphylactic reactions occurred in individuals who were not known by school personnel to have a prior history of life-threatening allergies.

Similar to individual anaphylaxis action plans, school staff and members of the school community should:

  • Be aware of triggers: Food allergies are the most common triggers, including peanuts, tree nuts, cow’s milk, wheat, shellfish and eggs. Other common triggers include bee/insect stings and latex. Triggers should be avoided whenever possible.
  • Know the signs and symptoms: These may include trouble breathing, chest pain, skin hives or redness of the skin, tightness in the throat, swelling of the lips and/or tongue, nausea, dizziness, a decrease in blood pressure, and/or fainting.Anaphylaxis symptoms may progress rapidly and become life-threatening, requiring prompt recognition and treatment initiation.
  • Have access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen Auto-Injector, on site and know how to use them. School representatives can access information about the program at EpiPen4Schools.com.
  • Know how to seek immediate medical attention: Emergency medical services may vary by school or location but should be contacted immediately. In many places this includes calling 911.

Important Safety Information

EpiPen Auto-Injectors contain a single dose of epinephrine, which you inject into your outer thigh. DO NOT INJECT INTO YOUR VEIN, BUTTOCK, FINGERS, TOES, HANDS OR FEET. In case of accidental injection, please seek immediate medical treatment. Epinephrine should be used with caution if you have heart disease or are taking certain medicines that can cause heart-related (cardiac) symptoms.

Tell your doctor if you have certain medical conditions such as asthma, depression, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, have any other medical conditions, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Be sure to also tell your doctor all the medicines you take, especially medicines for asthma. If you have certain medical conditions, or take certain medicines, your condition may get worse or you may have longer lasting side effects when you take the EpiPen or EpiPen Jr Auto Injector.

The most common side effects may include increase in heart rate, stronger or irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, paleness, dizziness, weakness or shakiness, headache, apprehension, nervousness or anxiety. These side effects usually go away quickly, especially if you rest.

Talk to your healthcare professional to see if EpiPen or EpiPen Jr Auto-Injector is right for you.

Indications

EpiPen® (epinephrine) 0.3 mg and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors are for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) caused by allergens, exercise, or unknown triggers; and for people who are at increased risk for these reactions. EpiPen and EpiPen Jr are intended for immediate self administration as emergency supportive therapy only. Seek immediate emergency medical treatment after use.

Please click here or visit www.EpiPen.com for the EpiPen Auto-Injector prescribing information.

Please click here or visit www.EpiPen.com for the EpiPen Auto-Injector patient information.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA.

Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.