Chicago Public Schools used emergency allergy medicine 38 times, report finds

Alice Yin, Assistant Campus Editor

Chicago Public Schools treated 38 students and staff members with emergency medication for life-threatening allergies during the 2012-13 school year, according to a Northwestern Medicine report in partnership with CPS.

CPS was the first large urban school district to stock the medication, called epinephrine auto-injectors, in its public and charter schools. School nurses oversaw implementing most of the medication. Students comprised 92 percent of those treated. More than half of the EAI recipients had no known history of allergic reactions.

“It is our goal to prevent any health-related barriers to learning, which is why we have worked with all of our schools to address this critical issue,” said Dr. Stephanie Whyte, report co-author and chief health officer for CPS, in a news release.

The report said the impact of the initiative’s first year highlights the importance of keeping an undesignated epinephrine supply in U.S. schools. The majority of EAIs issued were on the north-northwest side, but a significant portion of the EAIs was also used in the South Side, where children may not have access to food allergy resources.

Life-threatening allergic reactions can spring up within seconds of exposure to an allergen. No cure for food allergies currently exists, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Northwestern Medicine pediatrician and report co-author, said in a news release.

CPS’s allergy medication implementation targeted 21 cases of food-related allergies, with peanut as the most common, followed by fin fish. EAIs were also mostly administered in elementary schools.

As of last year, 41 states passed policies pushing schools to stock EAIs in case of emergencies.

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