April 15, 2013
Dear state representatives and senators,
First of all, thank you for your work serving all of us! As a mother of a child with several life-threatening food allergies who will be starting Kindergarten this fall, I am writing to express my support for two bills currently in the Oregon legislature – SB611 and HB2749. The reason these bills are crucial for students is because life-threatening allergic reaction can happen in a matter of minutes following allergen exposure, and the only medication known to counteract the reaction is injectable epinephrine. The best outcomes following anaphylactic reactions are associated with epinephrine being administered as soon as anaphylaxis is recognized. Waiting to administer epinephrine until emergency responders arrive may be too late for epinephrine to reverse the bodily systemic collapse that occurs in fatal anaphylactic reactions. Therefore, if and when a reaction happens at school, it is essential that epinephrine is close at hand and can be administered by school staff before emergency responders arrive.
Numerous states have already passed legislation on unassigned access to epinephrine and their associated guidelines, and it is my hope that Oregon will follow suit. It will protect children, like my son, with known life-threatening food allergies, but also children with unrealized allergies, whether it is a food allergy in the school cafeteria or a bee sting allergy on the playground.
In many ways, I view unassigned epinephrine similar to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), which have saved numerous lives during life-threatening cardiovascular events. Just as an idea for schools, there is a new epinephrine auto-injector on the market called Auvi-Q, which actually provides audio cues on how to use the device during an allergic reaction, much like an AED provides audio cues during a cardiovascular event, thus taking some of the fear out of using the device by non-medically trained individuals when time is of the essence.
I have witnessed first-hand the unpredictability, severity and swiftness of a life-threatening reaction to food in my son due to trace amounts of allergen. My interest, above all else, is to keep him and other children with life-threatening allergies safe. We take many precautions to keep our son reaction-free, but accidents can and do occur. Just this past fall in my son’s preschool, an art project involving a bag of mixed beans (which he did not eat), resulted in a significant reaction. When accidents occur, timely access to medication is essential. At school, it is paramount that staff in contact with my son, whether it is his teacher, lunch supervisor, or bus driver, are entrusted and capable of handling an unforeseen accident when I or his father are not there.
If you have any questions on allergies are need any kind of feedback in the legislative process, I am more than happy to help. I currently belong to an organization supporting food allergic individuals in Oregon, the Oregon Food Allergy Network. If you want a more personal take on our food allergy situation and the science behind food allergies, you may also view my personal blog, the Food Allergy Sleuth, on this topic.
Jessica L. Martin, Ph.D.
PS – Here is a local news story out of Salem just two days ago that ended well for a 1st grade food allergic child!