New EpiPen Law Doesn't Go Far Enough For Some Parents

Updated: 11/14/2013 6:16 PM By: Josh Rosenthal

There's a new law in place to help protect more kids nationwide with severe food allergies. President Obama signed a bill Wednesday to offer incentives to schools to stock epinephrine -- the first line of defense for a serious allergic reaction -- but some parents say the new law may not be enough.

Take, for example, Como Park Senior High School Freshman Max Narvaez. The list of foods he's allergic to includes eggs, tree nuts, beef, and pork. So when he accidentally ate salad dressing with egg in it a few weeks ago, he reached for his epinephrine.

"Just a tiny slip up can even be fatal if you don't treat it right," said Max.

Turns out there are a lot more kids like Max out there. A recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention study found that one in 20 kids has a food allergy. That's a 50 percent increase from the late 1990's. Making matters worse, experts aren't sure what's causing the spike.

"People describe the increase in food allergies as an epidemic because it's increasing so rapidly," explained Nona Narvaez, Max's mom and the executive director of the Anaphylaxis & Food Allergy Association of Minnesota. "Everyone's researching trying to figure out why, why this is happening."

Narvaez wants epinephrine -- commonly found in EpiPens -- in every school, no matter what. She says 25 percent of students who have allergic reactions in school didn't even know they had allergies.

"It's absolutely startling," she said.

For now, many Minnesota schools do have epinephrine -- they just aren't required to. Until that day comes, kids like Max will keep bringing their own.

"It's pretty much just knowing you have a lifesaver just on you at all times," he said, clutching a pouch with epinephrine in it, "just in case."

We contacted the Minnesota School Boards Association to see if they'd be open to epinephrine being required at all schools. They said they aren't opposed to it, but they have questions relating to the purchase and maintenance of the epinephrine, and also about staff training. They say they'd be willing to work with the legislature to develop an epinephrine program that's beneficial to all parties.