EpiPens in schools are not enough, advocates say

8:02 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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New York, New York (CBS NEWS) -- Sixteen states passed legislation this year making epinephrine available in school in case a child has a severe allergic reaction. That brings the total number of states able to stock EpiPens to 27. But advocates say more needs to be done.

Spencer Kavanagh suffered a severe allergic reaction in kindergarten. Now, he carries his EpiPen on him at all times.

"I have two of them cause if I used one and then I have another allergic reaction again somewhere, I can use both of them," he says.

The second grader has several allergies that can send him into anaphylaxis - a potentially life-threatening condition.

The foods Spencer is allergic to are peanuts and tree nuts, coconut, a number of fruits and latex," says his mother, Sue Kavanagh.

EpiPens contains epinephrine. When taken within minutes of a severe reaction, it could mean the difference between life and death. Almost all schools allow children with known allergies like Spencer to carry EpiPens but advocates worry about the students who may not be aware they are allergic until it's too late.

"About 25% of children who experience anaphylaxis experience it for the first time at school," says Charoltte W. Collins of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

A federal bill that provides incentives to states to stock emergency EpiPens in schools has made it through the House of Representatives.

Twenty-seven states have already passed their own legislation and five other states have bills pending.

"If we can save a kids life, why wouldn't we?" says Sue Kavanagh.

The issue is finding the money to pay for the medicine and the training.

Three states -- Iowa, Mississippi, and New York - introduced school epinephrine bills  -- but they failed to become law.