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Federal Bill Aims to Better Protect Students With Food Allergies

Michelle McCandless
U.S. Navy

President Obama signed a bipartisan bill Wednesday that offers financial incentives to states if schools stockpile epinephrine. Epinephrine is the emergency medication considered the primary treatment for a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis.

Two students died of anaphylaxis in 2012 -- one in Illinois, the other in Virginia -- focusing attention on the dangers of severe food allergies. Most allergic children keep epinephrine at school. The new bill aims to protect students with undiagnosed allergies.

In 2012, Connecticut’s Department of Education issued updated guidelines to districts on how to manage life-threatening food allergies at school. Local boards of education are expected to implement plans based on the guidelines. The new guidelines state that over 90 percent of allergic reactions are caused by just eight foods: peanut, tree nut (walnut, cashew, pecan, hazelnut, almond), milk, egg, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

USA Today reports that President Obama has revealed that his daughter Malia has a peanut allergy. "She doesn't have asthma," Obama said in a statement, "but obviously making sure that EpiPens are available in case of emergency in schools is something that every parent can understand."

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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