A bill making its way through the legislature would allow schools to keep “EpiPens” on hand to use if students have an allergic reaction to something. Representative Norlin Mommsen of DeWitt is the bill’s floor manager in the House.
“I have received multiple conversations and emails concerning the importance of this bill,” Mommsen said today. “It can be best summed up by a comment made by a fellow representative: ‘We have the opportunity to pass this bill before there’s a tragedy and we have to attach a name to it.'”
Iowa schools currently have the authority to stock inhalers which can be used if a student has an asthma attack. This bill would allow Iowa schools to have the “pens” that dispense a single dose of epinephrine if a student has an allergic reaction to something like a bee sting or food. The school could get a prescription for EpiPens and only trained personnel would be able to administer a dose, if the bill becomes law.
Iowa is one of just four states that do not have this kind of a law and Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt of Cedar Rapids is among the group of Iowa legislators and school nurses that has been working on this proposal for eight years.
“I can’t explain the increase in severe allergies in our children,” Running-Marquardt said today, “the birthday parties where you now have to know which children have a nut, egg or milk allergies and the EpiPen carrying cases that children have now with their name on them, so you can tell whose belong to who.”
She cited a report indicating 25 percent of the episodes that are the first indication a child has a food allergy occur at school. Representative Mary Mascher, a retired school teacher from Iowa City, said EpiPens are expensive, but some drug companies provide them free of charge to schools.
“This really is a bill that could save children’s lives,” Mascher said today.
The bill cleared the Senate unanimously on March 17. It was changed slightly by the House today, to allow “agents” of a school — like a classroom volunteer or a parent watching a football game on school grounds — as well as school employees to administer an “EpiPen” dosage if they are trained to do so. That change must be approved by the Senate before the bill can go to the governor’s desk for his review.