The Case for "Teacher Training" in NYS Public Schools

One in 13 children have food allergies; that equals two kids at risk for anaphylaxis in every classroom across America. The data from the Center for Disease and Control shows that twenty-five to 30% of anaphylactic reactions occur at school without a prior diagnosis. That is why the Allergy Advocacy Association, building on the success of our past legislative efforts, is working to find new ways to promote “Teacher Training” for the administration of life-saving epinephrine in NYS Public Schools.

The Case for "Teacher Training" in NYS Public Schools

New York State Capitol with Flags and Reflecting Pool, Albany NY

By Jon Terry
18 March 2021

Greetings. Concerning life-threatening allergies and anaphylaxis, just how safe are kids in New York State public schools? What laws are currently in place to protect kids from anaphylaxis emergencies? Are there loopholes, gaps or errors in childcare at our schools that need to be corrected? While discussing these questions in this article the Allergy Advocacy Association provides context.

For the past ten years legislation requiring anaphylaxis emergency training for newly certified teachers has been an important objective for our association. This year Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal along with activist advocates have re-introduced the "Teacher Training" bill (A523 and S587), an act to amend the education law, in relation to requiring newly certified teachers to receive instruction in the use of an epinephrine auto-injector. Why is this law so important?

Stacey Saiontz is the mother of food allergic child and an activist advocate here in NY. "Children spend most of their waking hours at school in the care of their teachers," says Ms.

Saiontz. "Every day that parents drop off food allergic children at school, they live in fear that the school won’t be prepared to act if their child has a reaction. It only takes one time- there are no second chances. You can’t protect kids completely from food allergies but you can educate people on how to save someone experiencing a reaction."

Data from the Center for Disease and Control shows that twenty-five to 30% of anaphylactic reactions occur at school without a prior diagnosis. The majority of the epinephrine administrations in schools were performed by the school nurse (92%).

Stacey explained "anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal allergic reaction. The antidote to the reaction is a simple and timely administration of epinephrine. Anaphylaxis symptoms develop with frightening speed. It can often result in closing off a person’s airway; you may only have minutes or just seconds to address it. Promptly administering epinephrine (a simple and safe procedure) could save someone's life."

While every school district has a medical officer, there is no requirement that a nurse be present in a school building at all times. Given any delay in getting a licensed healthcare provider to a child in anaphylactic shock, it's crucial that teachers understand how to use an epinephrine

auto-injector (EAI) device. It is important to note that any school staff member may administer epinephrine with an auto injector device in an emergency situation.

Stacey emphasized “The cost of failure is deadly but the cost of training people to do this is practically nothing. The risk of a teacher overreacting and administering it when not needed is minimal. The only risk is not acting at all.”

And there are existing state policies that might easily fulfill training for all new teachers. The NYS public health laws already provide training protocols for school employees, many who are already working in our central school districts.

A NYS approved training program for schools wishing to train school staff on how to administer EAI's is available right now on the NYS Center for School Health website: https://www.schoolhealthny.com/EPITraining

Completion of this simple training program allows staff members on-site at the school to administer an EAI device to any student or staff member showing symptoms of an anaphylaxis emergency.

Once training has been completed there are policies authorizing athletic trainers to administer epinephrine via an epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) device. http://www.p12.nysed.gov/schoolbus/EPIPenFAQ.html

Permitting new teachers to use established training protocols would enable new teachers to view a simple internet-based one hour program to obtain certification. Since teachers are already undergoing other required training for state certification, another program that might save lives should be included.

The safety and well-being of individuals with life-threatening allergies is a serious, continuing public health issue. According to the nonprofit advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), over 32 million Americans have been diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies; 5.6 million of those are children. One in 13 children has food allergies. That equals two kids at risk for anaphylaxis in every classroom across America.

Fortunately deaths from anaphylaxis are relatively low. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimates 500 to 1,000 deaths per year in the US from anaphylaxis.

However, the number of Americans at risk for anaphylaxis emergencies continues to increase dramatically. Research by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) shows that every year, around 2,000 hospitalizations, 30,000 emergency room visits, and 150 deaths due to anaphylaxis are recorded in the U.S. From 2007 to 2016 diagnoses from Emergency Medical Services of anaphylactic food reactions rose 377%.

Present conditions in NYS might not be ideal for enacting new legislation; they almost never are. That is no reason for activist advocates to lessen our efforts. We must raise public awareness of anaphylaxis emergencies thru a program of AWARENESS, ALERTNESS and ACTION. The well-being of so many children with undiagnosed food allergies is clearly at risk.

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