Epinephrine auto-injectors (EAIs) were distributed to all Chicago’s public and charter schools prior to the 2012-13 academic season.
Chicago was the first large urban school district in the U.S. to stock un-designated EAIs for treating acute allergic reactions. The term un-designated indicates the auto-injectors are for general use, and not prescribed to specific students.
Parents of public school kids might be interested in the practical significance of keeping un-designated EAIs in schools. Data from Chicago’s inaugural 2012-13 school year, reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, gives us an idea of their import.
38 Definite Benefits
The EAIs turned out to be crucial for 38 Chicagoans experiencing allergic reactions while at school in 2012-13. The 38 emergency ephinephrine doses went primarily (92.1 percent) to students—63.2 percent were in the elementary grades, while 36.8 percent were high schoolers.
An unexpected 55 percent of the students who received an EAI dose were first time auto-injector users, suggesting some or all of them were experiencing their first exposure to a triggering food allergen. This was surprising since earlier research suggested just 20 to 25 percent of children with allergies - half the Chicago number - have their first allergic reaction while at school.
Most of the 38 reactions (55.3 percent) were food-related. Peanut and fin fish were the primary triggers (18.4 and 13.2 percent). Other reactions were caused by insect venom, animals, and grass; 34.2 percent had no identifiable trigger.
Most of the epinephrine injections (76.3 percent) were given by school nurses and 911 was called in 81.6 percent of the cases.
Of the EAIs used, 26.3 percent were administered to students attending school on Chicago’s Far South Side—a more economically depressed area that is also associated with a low rate of physician diagnosed food allergy.
“This underscores the need for access to district-issued EAIs citywide, as children...may not have access to [prior] food-allergy diagnosis and could experience their first allergic reaction at school,” wrote the report’s authors.