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Holidays Highlight Need for Food Allergy Awareness

  • Red Cross Epi Auto-Injector Training
  • Red Cross Epi Auto-Injector Training
  • Training
Anaphylaxis results in approximately 1,500 deaths annually

New Law and Red Cross Course Helps Those with Allergies

Holiday events and family gatherings are meant to be joyous occasions. These celebrations can be challenging for individuals with food allergies. It is difficult to determine what ingredients are in each holiday dish and treat. Guests with allergies should remind or make hosts aware ahead of time of any particular allergies. Many guests opt to bring a safe dish with them and make sure they have their allergy medications.

People with food allergies face challenges with ingredients in dishes all year long at home, at restaurants and at school. President Obama recently signed into law a bill that provides incentives for schools to stock lifesaving epinephrine -- medicine that is critical for students and school staff who experience a life-threatening allergic emergency.

The law dovetails with efforts by the American Red Cross in updating its program to train people in the proper use of epinephrine auto-injectors, which can save a life when a person is having a dangerous allergic reaction, also known as an anaphylactic attack.

In partnership with Mylan labs, makers of the EpiPen®, the Red Cross has revised its epinephrine auto-injector training to make it an on-line course. The goal is to dramatically increase training accessibility for school personnel around the nation.

In signing the bill, the president said that at a parent of a child with a peanut allergy he personally appreciates the need for schools to have injectors on hand.

“Obviously, making sure that epinephrine auto-injectors are available in case of emergency in schools is something that every parent can understand,” Obama said. “And, thanks to the bipartisan work of the folks behind us and the advocacy communities that have been pushing this so hard, we’re going to be giving states a lot more incentives to make sure that that happens.”

Anaphylaxis results in approximately 1,500 deaths annually, with children and adolescents among those most at risk. Preparedness in the school setting is critical with the rate of food allergies among U.S. children on the rise.

Several states have led the way for this legislation - Virginia and Illinois are among the leaders - which will make it easier for schools to obtain these devices. As a result, the Red Cross expects to see the demand for training to extend beyond the school nurse and anticipates the need to train entire faculty and cafeteria staff.

Red Cross Anaphylaxis and Epinephrine Auto-Injector course participants learn the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, how to care for a person having a severe allergic reaction, and how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector device.

This course is available in an updated 45-minute classroom format or a new 30-minute online format. Each course format awards two-year certification. The classroom course includes a mixture of lecture, discussion and skill practice. The online course includes video presentations, activities and quizzes that allow participants to apply their knowledge. Participants must pass a 10-question learning assessment to complete the online course.

H.R. 2094, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, creates a preference for states with laws in place that direct schools to do the following:

  • Permit trained personnel of the school to administer epinephrine to any student of the school reasonably believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction;
  • Maintain a supply of epinephrine in a secure location that is easily accessible to trained personnel of the school for the purpose of administration to any student of the school reasonably believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction; and
  • Have a plan in place at schools for ensuring that there are one or more individuals on staff trained in the proper use of the injector.
  • Not all states require the availability of epinephrine in schools, something that the law’s backers hope will change with the passage of the new measure.

    "Currently, less than half of the states have legislation concerning the stocking of epinephrine in schools,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. “Keeping a stock of nonstudent-specific epinephrine in schools is a lifesaving measure and should be implemented nationwide.” The new law “is an important step to protect children who do not know that they are at risk for anaphylaxis.”

    Rep. C. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said approximately 30 states are working on legislation that would permit schools to keep injectors that aren't designated for particular individuals. H.R. 2094 “would encourage the remaining states to work on enacting similar legislation."

    A preview of the online course is available. People can register by going to, entering their zip code and selecting the “First Aid, CPR, AED for Lay Responder” search category.

    Tags: PHSS.
    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.