Connecticut has joined 10 other states in a national effort aimed at making epinephrine, a life-saving medication for individuals suffering from severe allergic reactions, available from all levels of emergency medical technicians (EMT). Governor John G. Rowland of Conn. recently signed a law that calls for all EMTs to be trained in recognizing and treating anaphylaxis (ana-fill-ax-iss) — a potentially fatal allergic reaction. This effort is being spearheaded by The Food Allergy Network (FAN), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting awareness, education and research about this allergic disorder that affects more than 6 million Americans.
Epinephrine is the medication of choice for the treatment of severe allergic reactions. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology’s Anaphylaxis Position Statement cites, “There is clear evidence that delays or failure in the use of epinephrine have both contributed to many fatal reactions to insect stings and foods. These reactions occurred in spite of the patient making reasonable efforts to avoid exposure, and fatal outcomes are most often associated with either not using or a delay in its use.”
Currently there are 11 states that train all levels of EMTs to recognize anaphylaxis and allow them to carry and administer epinephrine. Although all paramedics are allowed to carry and administer this life-saving medication, they represent less than one fifth of the 735,000 EMTs in this country. EMT basics, which make up the largest portion of this group, are not allowed to carry or administer epinephrine in 39 states.
“In the case of an anaphylactic reaction, patients immediately dial 911 for help. They expect that an EMT will arrive quickly with the epinephrine which can save their life,” said Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and president of The Food Allergy Network. “If a patient does not have their prescribed epinephrine, and the EMT on the scene is not carrying it, a life or death situation can arise. The delay in administering epinephrine has contributed to fatalities in the past. Between 100 and 200 Americans die each year due to food-induced anaphylaxis.”
Colleen Bryant, the mother of a food-allergic child and member of FAN, initiated the effort in Connecticut. After Bryant’s daughter experienced her first anaphylactic reaction, she called the local EMS department to make sure that the best care could be given if a reaction happened again. She discovered that not all of the EMTs in her hometown were trained to administer the epinephrine that could save her daughter’s life.
“This law will help those that live with the threat of a fatal reaction feel safer when they call their EMS service and know that they will respond with the appropriate medical treatment,” said Bryant. “I feel fortunate to have been able to assist in making such a significant change for my daughter and others who suffer with food allergies.”
The state of Washington instituted the Kristine Kastner Act on January 1 of this year allowing all EMTs to carry epinephrine and be trained on how to administer the medication. The law was created following the death of 12- year-old Kristine Kastner who died 45 minutes after biting into a chocolate chip cookie containing finely chopped peanuts. EMTs on the scene were not equipped with epinephrine. They could only rush her to the hospital. Only 18 days after the law was enacted, a woman in Kirkland, Wash. survived a life- threatening allergic reaction because the EMT that responded to her call for help was carrying epinephrine and knew how to use it.
States that allow all levels of EMTs to carry and administer epinephrine, in addition to Connecticut, include: Florida, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The Food Allergy Network is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of, providing education about, and advancing scientific research on food allergies and anaphylaxis. Established in 1991, FAN has more than 20,000 members in the United States, Canada, and 62 other countries. For more information, visit FAN’s website, www.foodallergy.org.