Every parent expects a safe school environment for their children. But when children have asthma or life-threatening allergies, schools are filled with potential dangers. Students in Vermont are one step closer to safety thanks to concerned parents, state legislators and Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA).
Legislation introduced last week gives students in Vermont the right to carry and self-administer their prescribed asthma and anaphylaxis medications at school and school-sponsored events. “I believe we are saving lives,” says MaryKay Hill, founder of the Vermont Food Allergy Organization, who worked with AANMA and Rep. Joyce Errecart on the bill. “I don’t want to wake up in the morning and read a headline that a child died from anaphylaxis or asthma at school.” This law would make Vermont the 48th state to protect students with asthma and the 41st to protect students with anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction to foods, insect stings, medications or latex.
Similar laws have been enacted across the nation thanks to the Asthmatic Schoolchildren’s Treatment and Health Management Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-377). AANMA led a nationwide grassroots campaign asking Congress to draft and pass this bill, which created incentives for states to protect students with asthma and anaphylaxis. When the bill was introduced in 2003, only 18 states had laws protecting the rights of students to carry asthma inhalers and 11 protected students’ rights to carry auto-injectable epinephrine for anaphylaxis.
“Our organization – along with thousands of patients, families and medical care professionals – has worked state-by-state across the country to protect the safety of schoolchildren,” says AANMA founder and president Nancy Sander. “We won’t stop until students in all 50 states are protected with laws that work.”
Laws that don’t work contain loopholes that let school staff take away a student’s medication. AANMA is advocating for changes to such laws in Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia to eliminate language that compromises student health. When any individual has legal discretion to interfere with a student’s prescribed asthma or anaphylaxis treatment plan, students are at risk of death.
Asthma claims the lives of 12 Americans every day. It affects more than nine million children and is the leading cause of missed school days. Approximately 2.2 million schoolchildren have food allergy – just one of the causes of anaphylaxis. And all these numbers are growing.
Visit AANMA’s guide to state laws at http://www. breatherville.org/cityhall/ch_childrights.htm for the status of your state and to download copies of current legislation. If you live in Connecticut, Idaho, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah or Wisconsin, you can help protect schoolchildren by asking your legislators to get involved in this issue. Legislation in New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania is pending but can still use your support.
Founded in 1985, Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics is the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating suffering and death due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. AANMA’s core areas of expertise are education, advocacy and community outreach. The organization’s award-winning publications – “Allergy & Asthma Today” magazine and “The MA Report” newsletter – and the Breatherville.org Web site are consumer lifelines to medical news and healthy living.
Source: Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)