News


Palo Alto schools to stock non-prescription EpiPens

Local push follows federal School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Law

After an outcry by local doctors and parents, the Palo Alto school district will begin stocking its campuses with medication that can save a child from dying from a sudden allergic reaction.

School board members last week unanimously backed a policy change that would indemnify trained staff members who volunteer to administer emergency epinephrine auto-injectors -- or Epipens -- to a student experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

Until now, schools have stored only prescribed EpiPens supplied by parents for pre-identified children with asthma or other known allergies to be used in case of a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.

The new policy clears the way for broader availability of the medication for any child in case of an emergency, with an opportunity for families to opt out if they so choose.

About a dozen people, including several physicians whose children attend local schools, implored the school board in April to begin stocking non-prescribed EpiPens on every campus. They said 25 percent of life-threatening allergic reactions that occur in schools come from undiagnosed allergies, in which cases school personnel must wait for emergency medical assistance or break the law by using an EpiPen prescribed for another child.

School district nurse Linda Lenoir said she plans to stock each of Palo Alto's 18 campuses with four non-prescription EpiPens, which she said are good for a year before expiration.

The indemnification of additional employees to administer EpiPens will not affect the district's liability premiums, district business officer Cathy Mak said. "I checked with...our liability insurance administrator plus our attorney and both said the risk is very minimal," Mak said. "Plus, we're already doing this now for students who have a prescription."

The local push to broaden EpiPen access at school followed President Barack Obama's signing last November of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Law, which offers financial incentives for schools to maintain supplies of the medication.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

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Posted by observer
a resident of Addison School
on Jun 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I hope this effort comes with some educational credits for Linda Lenoir, whose training about allergy in general seems to have happened in the stone ages. Her heart's in the right place, usually, let's see if her knowledge and attitude can catch up.

Thanks to the parents for getting involved!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Does this worry other parents as much as it worries me?

Does this mean that if my child who has no known allergies can be treated with an epi pin by a non medical school employee for any symptom that could possibly be an allergic reaction to a possible substance? Who will be making the call that this is the right action? Who will administer the epi pin? What happens if this is the wrong treatment for what might be something completely different?


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Posted by Whew!
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm

This a great relief, since anaphylaxis can kill a person in a matter of minutes.

This is also a far cry from afew years ago when my Son's PE teacher decried him as a whimp for using an inhaler for his asthma before PE!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

FYI - both Gunn and Paly athletic staff (trainers & coaches) must take Red Cross CPR and First Aid before the school year starts. RC First Aid includes Epi Pen admin. They do not stock epi pens, but they are trained as to administrate a dose if required to do so.


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Posted by Dr Mark
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:59 am

I applaud the Palo Alto school district for their outstanding effort to protect all students. As more than 25% of all life-threatening severe allergic reactions occur in individuals WITH NO KNOWN ALLERGIES, this move will make schools safer for everyone. Severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis, can kill within minutes if epinephrine is NOT administered, and there is no downside to providing epinephrine if anaphylaxis is suspected. Information, training, and allergy rescue equipment are available at www.epicentermedical.com. Use of an epinephrine auto injector like Auvi-Q or EpiPen should be as familiar as a fire extinguisher in an emergency - life-saving.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by STACY
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:21 am

Awesome! Even a bee sting could cause an allergic reaction that parents would never have known about if their child had never been stung.

@PalyParent - The article states that you can opt out for your child since you're concerned. But as a parent of a child with a "surprise" allergy...think this may save a life.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Yes, I have read the article.

Nowhere does it state who will make the call on when the pins should be used. Nowhere does it state that it will be school medical personnel, there aren't any in the elementary schools. Nowhere does it state what happens to someone who receives this medication when it is the wrong medication to use for whatever is causing the condition the student is experiencing.

I would like to be told about this policy from the schools answering these questions, not the local newspaper which I know many parents don't read.

I would not necessarily want to opt out, but I would like a better idea of what the potential hazards are for incorrect diagnosis and/or usage of these pins.

And yes, I have some experience of serious surprise allergic reactions because as a child I remember having a very serious sudden reaction to a bee sting although I seem to have outgrown the reaction. I know that I was lucky at the time and it turned out to be not too serious but since I was scared and so were my parents, a non medical person trying to stick me with a strange pin would not have felt reassuring at the time.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Addison School
on Jun 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm

@Paly Parent,
Maybe this is an opportunity for us to discuss why it is we can't afford full-time school nurses at our elementary and middle schools -- we have part-time at middle and essentially none in elementary -- but we can even contemplate adding $16-20 million or more to a $20 million gift for a gym at Paly that would already be almost twice what was spent for the new gym at Gunn if they just spent the gift money.

Please write your concerns to the school district, and instead of just being a crank, suggest that they need to ensure we train existing personnel -- such as the school psychologists and health techs at middle school level -- in proper use, or that we actually BE the great school district we claim we are and staff our school sites with full-time school nurses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

@Paly Parent:

All that's in an epi-pen is epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. When someone gets injected, it's as if he is getting an adrenaline rush. I personally know several people who have injected themselves by accident and nothing harmful happened. They are parents of children with severe food allergies, hence they have access to the epi-pens.

Having said that, whenever anyone receives a epi-pen shot, he/she should seek medical help immediately by dialing 911. This is standard procedure for epi-pen use.

Does that ally part of your concerns?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stanford Grad
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2014 at 10:39 am

@UC Davis Grad- [Portion removed.] Paly Parent voiced a valid concern- the article doesn't say who will be making the determination as to whether the child will be stuck with an epi-pen but since there are no nurses in the lower schools it will likely be non medical staff. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Truedy
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Addison School
on Jun 23, 2014 at 7:27 pm

@stanford Grad,
This is a valid concern but the reality us that students already have epi-pens and their use ends up in the hands of non-medical staff, since we seem to think we need a $40 million dollar gym rather than a free $20 million one far more than we need school nurses.

Most likely use of these will be for kids who didnt get their paperwork in or somehow forgot their own epipen. However, you bring up a valid point. Lots of people I wouldnt want in charge of such a serious decision and don't trust to do the right thing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 24, 2014 at 9:29 am

@observer

Although I agree that 24M should be enough to build a quality gym, the extra 16M cannot be used to buy nurses. This 16M is coming out of the bond and has to be used for things approved in the bond. But, the money could be used for more computers/furniture to outfit the new buildings or to upgrade some of the dismally outdated buildings at Paly. It is clear that the much of the community and the board value this gym complex more than they value upgrading existing classroom buildings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:12 am

PAUSD (and community parents) should be congratulated for 'leading again.' The administration of my own school district is not yet interested in discussing this. Maybe 'follow PA' will help motivate my community and administration.
Policy needs to be followed by Procedure. The details for this need to be worked out and communicated to the parents (and staff). 911 and medical phone advice can get the needed medications into the appropriate kids in a life-saving time. What is the hazard of injection when not needed and what is the hazard of non-injection (or late injection) when needed? I'm sure medical studies are available.
Just hope the procedure writing does NOT take as long to craft as the PAUSD uniform 'bully reporting policy.'


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