The death of a 7-year-old girl at her Virginia elementary school earlier this year grabbed national headlines and left school officials and others scrambling to explain the lack of a simple little device that could have saved her life.
The girl was allergic to peanuts and died of a severe reaction. The device is an epinephrine auto-injector, more commonly known by its brand name, EpiPen. And with the food allergy rate among American children at around 4 percent (and climbing by many accounts), it isn’t just parents of allergic children who need to know a thing or two about these potentially life-saving gizmos.
Who Needs One?
Epinephrine auto-injectors are designed to allow a person without medical training to easily inject someone having a serious allergic reaction with the drug epinephrine, which should halt the reaction and could save the person’s life. You just remove the safety cap, hold the device against the thigh and push the plunger to release the spring-loaded hypodermic.
Nut allergies account for 85 percent of fatal allergic reactions in the United States, so people with nut allergies make up the majority of the EpiPen-holding population. “Anyone who has a nut allergy needs an Epi Pen,” says Roger Friedman, M.D., an allergist with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. But people with other types of serious allergies also have EpiPen prescriptions.