Allergy Prescriptions for Back to School: Information Every Parent Should Know

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This time of year I get lots of calls and forms to fill out from parents who have children in school that need their allergy prescriptions filled out for the school nurse. The main prescriptions are for the EpiPen, which is the injectable adrenaline used for severe allergic reactions to foods or insect stings. The other prescriptions are forasthma inhalers, in case a child experiences an acute asthma attack. This is routine for my office- but it should be anything but routine for parents whose child needs to have these medications available and be used in case of an allergic or asthmatic emergency.

Last Saturday, (September 8, 2012)The Business Section of The New York Times ran a lead article entitled: “Tiny Lifesaver for a Growing Worry.” The article focused how many states (not New York) had passed a law that an EpiPen can be used in a school without a prescription by a school nurse to treat a child in danger of anaphylaxis (the most severe form of allergy). The article showed a picture how EpiPens would be mounted in the nurse’s office just like a defibrillator unit (to reverse cardiac arrest) to call attention to the use of this life-saving medication. This medical issue unfortunately only got national attention when a year ago, Amarrria Johnson, who had a known peanut allergy was given a peanut by another child and went into respiratory arrest due to the allergic reaction. The nurse did not have a documented prescription to give epinephrine and it was not given in time to prevent Amarria’s death. Law-makers and Health officials using common sense are now putting laws into place to allow a qualified health professional to administer the Epipen, regardless ifa prescription is in place. This is important because a child may develop a severe allergic reaction for thefirst time in their elementary school years and they may not have had the need for a prescription. A study in Massachusetts found that25% of children that received epinephrine never knew they had an allergy.

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Food allergy is on the rise. Today 1 in 13 children have a food allergy- and 40% are found to have a severe reaction to the food. Peanut allergy is notorious for causing severe food allergy reactions. Today 1 in 70 children are allergic to peanuts- back in 1997 1 in 250 children had peanut allergy. The good news is that testing is getting better and safer. When I have a concern that a child has a peanut allergy I order theUKnowPeanut test (PIRL labs); this test can quite accurately detect if a child is at risk for a severe allergic reaction to peanut. These tests are more specific than a skin test- and safer because the child gets no exposure to the actual peanut, it’s all through the blood. I’ve also been fortunate to advise parents who were concerned their child might have a peanut allergy that in fact they were not allergic to peanut from the test. I can also order other food allergy tests in the blood or do skin tests if I think it is necessary.

So, once again, if your child has a food allergy please make sure the school has an updated prescription to use epinephrine from your doctor, and the same goes for asthma medications.

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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