About 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy, but many of them are unaware ... until they have a reaction. Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law Wednesday that makes it legal for a school official who isn't a nurse to administer drugs to quell an allergic episode.
Schools across Illinois increasingly don't have the funds to employ a full-time nurse. But under a 20-11 law that allowed the use of epinephrine in schools for kids with food allergies, the drug, frequently administered via EpiPen, could only be used by a nurse.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office worked on the legislation. She says even the school her children attend doesn't have a full-time nurse.
"Unfortunately, not all schools in the state of Illinois have school nurses and that's why it was important to us to expand this law to make sure other people can administer," she said.
About a quarter of schoolchildren with allergies don't know it yet and don't have EpiPen prescriptions. Without a school nurse to administer an emergency dosage, the child must be sent to the emergency room.
Jen Jobrack, with Food Allergy Research & Education, says that puts children at risk.
"In about 25 percent of cases where epinephrin was administered in a school, the allergy was previously unknown and undiagnosed," she said. "And yet the existing law ... allowed the undiagnosed student to receive the medication only from a school nurse."
Jobrack says FARE advocates for more school nurses, but for the time being is pleased with the law's expansion.
Schools will now be able to have trained staff administer EpiPen injections.