Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta, Inc. applauds Georgia legislators for passing Senate Bill 126, which will provide access to epinephrine auto-injectors in public facilities, and urges Gov. Nathan Deal to sign the bill. This new law will make epinephrine – which is first line medication to treat anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction – available in public places such as restaurants, recreation camps, youth sports leagues, theme parks, resorts, and sports arenas.
“This is good news for any Georgian with food allergies,” says Dr. Karen Freedle, Pediatric Allergist with the Children’s Physician Group, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University and Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta board member. “The legislation could be life-saving for anyone having anaphylaxis. It allows trained individuals access to an epinephrine auto-injector so that they can give the medically necessary medication to those who need it.”
Anaphylaxis can happen at any time and can be caused by food, medications, insect venom, latex, and other allergens. Early use of epinephrine improves a person’s chance for survival. Symptoms may initially be mild, such as itching or rash, but can then turn serious very quickly, causing shortness of breath, shock or even death.
“We applaud the Georgia General Assembly for passing this bill,” said Karen Harris, Founder of Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta and Vice President of Restaurant and Food Industry Services for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team. “By having epinephrine auto-injectors readily available in public places, citizens and businesses are better protected. We must ensure entities are aware of this new law and that they understand the importance to have epinephrine auto-injectors available to use in cases of emergency.”
In addition to offering better protection to those who currently suffer from life-threatening allergies, or to those who may experience anaphylaxis for the first time, the new law will also provide civil liability protection for pharmacists who fill the medication, health care providers who write the prescriptions, and others who maintain and administer this emergency treatment, in accordance with the law.
Georgia was one of the first states to enact statewide legislation allowing schools to stock epinephrine. “We have already seen stock epinephrine save lives in Georgia schools,” says Harris. “It’s imperative this medication is available in all public entities where allergens are capable of causing anaphylaxis. Food allergic individuals should always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors, but often times, we see this is not the case.” Connie Trent, Health Services Facilitator for Forsyth County Schools says the district has had great success with stock epinephrine. “So far in the 2014-15’ school year, we have used epinephrine 10 times,” says Trent. “Four doses were from the person’s own epinephrine auto-injector and six doses were from our stock supply of epinephrine. Of the stock medication, 4 were unknown allergies and 2 were known allergies but the person did not have their epinephrine with them. We have not only given epinephrine to students, but to staff and parents as well.”
Harris encourages businesses and entities to contact their organization with questions regarding the new law or for assistance with the implementation of stock epinephrine for their establishment.
Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta has worked with legislators to improve GA’s stock epinephrine law (HB 337), assisted school districts in Georgia with staff training and stock epinephrine implementation, and supports organizations working on similar legislation in other states.
Food allergies are on the rise and there is no cure. A CDC report released in May 2013 estimates that “between 1997 and 1999, food allergies affected about 3.4 percent of American children. By 2009 to 2011, that number rose to 5.1 percent – an increase of 50 percent in just over a decade.”