The prevalence of food allergies and severe allergic reactions has skyrocketed over the last several years. The incidence of people, primarily children, having food allergies has increased by 18 percent in the decade between 1997 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Other researchers have estimated that nearly 15 million Americans have a food allergy, with potentially deadly reactions affecting 1 in 13 children. That’s equal to about two children per every classroom!
With this significant increase in food allergies, there is an increasing need for people to have access to emergency supplies, such as an epinephrine auto injector (i.e. EpiPen® or AuviQ). These are important emergency treatment devices that can prevent anaphylactic shock.
New Florida Epinephrine Auto-Injector Law Goes Into Effect
Recently, a new law has gone into effect here in Florida to help increase the availability of epinephrine auto-injectors when Governor Scott signed the Emergency Allergy Treatment Act (HB 1131) into law. This new law will allow restaurants, theme parks, youth camps and sports leagues, and other businesses to have supplies of epinephrine auto-injectors. State Senator Aaron Bean of Jacksonville and State Representative Matt Hudson of Naples were the sponsors of this important legislation.
This new legislation not only offers protections for people who suffer from life-threatening allergies, but it also provides civil liability protections for health care providers, pharmacists and others who maintain and administer this emergency treatment. To be most effective, epinephrine must be administered early on during a severe allergic reaction – whether the trigger is a food, insect, or other allergen.
The greatest danger of not having immediate access to lifesaving epinephrine is that anaphylaxis can come on and progress very quickly. Every minute counts when it comes to administering epinephrine. Symptoms may initially be mild such as itching or rash but can then rapidly progress to throat closing, difficulty breath, shock or even death. These reactions are most common in response to peanuts and tree nuts, fish or shellfish but may happen upon exposure to other substances. It is unpredictable when these allergic reactions will occur. The epinephrine injector immediately delivers the medication into the muscle of the thigh, which is then rapidly taken up in the bloodstream to stop an allergic reaction.
Too often, especially among children and adolescents, victims don’t even realize they possess a severe allergy and are therefore not prepared to act when the allergic reaction suddenly begins. Once an anaphylactic reaction starts, immediate action is vital to the victim’s health. Taking the time to call 911 before administering an epinephrine dose could be a dangerous, even fatal decision. The Emergency Allergy Treatment Act goes a long way towards combating the issue of delayed epinephrine administration and will allow businesses to stock these devices for immediate use in life-threatening allergic situations, without concern for potential liability or lawsuits. In short, Public places will be better prepared to act if someone has a severe allergic reaction.
At our allergy and asthma clinic, we see routinely talk with parents and patients who grapple with their severe allergies and fears of unpredictable anaphylaxis. We commend this new Florida law that will bring added comfort to those with food allergies and their family members. All of us at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida would like to extend our gratitude to the Florida Legislature, especially the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bean and Rep. Hudson, for their work with this bill. And of course, we would like to thank Gov. Scott for signing this important and life saving measure into Florida law.