Schools to be allowed to keep spare allergy pens

Epipen

Severe allergies make life extremely challenging for up to 6 per cent of school children in the UK. If yours is one of them, then the latest change in the law surrounding adrenaline auto-injector pens will be welcome news

From 1 October 2017, all schools in the UK will be allowed to buy spare adrenaline injector pens for children who are at risk of anaphylaxis and whose parents have given consent.

For children with severe allergies, this really is a matter of life or death – 17% of fatal allergic reactions in school-aged children occur when they are at school.

The move comes as the result of a change in the law and updated guidance from the Department of Health on the use of such devices in schools. Children who are affected by severe allergies will now be able to access an extra dose if the first one fails, the pen is used incorrectly or if their own allocated device is unavailable for any reason.

Schools will be able to order adrenaline auto-injectors, including EpiPen, Jext or Emerade, from pharmacies, and store them for use in emergencies to help buy some precious time til urgent medical help arrives.

The advice to phone 999 straight away when a child has an anaphylactic reaction has not changed, and it's still recommended that children who suffer an anaphylactic reaction are observed overnight in hospital, in case they have a “biphasic reaction”, where symptoms reappear and cause breathing and blood pressure problems.

Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Every death of a child is a tragedy. Parents of children with severe allergies who have been prescribed adrenaline auto-injectors will have increased peace of mind through these changes.”

What can cause anaphylaxis?

Foods including:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Sesame
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

Non-food products such as:

  • Wasp or bee stings
  • Natural latex
  • Penicillin or any other drug or injection

What are the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction?

  • Generalised flushing of the skin
  • Nettle rash (hives) anywhere on the body
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Swelling of throat and mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • Alterations in heart rate
  • Severe asthma
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden feeling of weakness (drop in blood pressure)
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

Not all people with allergies will experience all of these symptoms in the same episode. Symptoms may come on suddenly, within moments of exposure – but it's also possible that they will take some time to appear.

Source on anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis Campaign, a UK charity.