Health Team

NC schools stocked with EpiPens this year

Posted August 27, 2014

Camden Hughes was on a road trip with his parents about two years ago when he had his first allergic reaction to candy with nuts.

“I looked back and said, ‘Are you sick Camden?’” his father, Duncan Hughes, recalled. Camden gestured to his neck and said he felt his throat closing.

A plastic surgeon, his father knew it could be anaphylactic shock. Duncan Hughes stopped at a pharmacy and gave Camden a dose of Benadryl to keep the allergic reaction from getting worse.

The next time Camden has an allergic reaction, it could be life-threatening. So, he's never far away from his self-injectible epinephrine device – or EpiPen. Injected into the thigh, the pen delivers a dose into the blood stream to stop the body's allergic response.

“We carry his EpiPen everywhere we go - in his backpack. All his teachers know about it,” Duncan Hughes said.

A new state law requires schools to be equipped with EpiPens by Nov. 1. The pens cost about $100 each for the first year, but the manufacturer is donating two devices per school.

Most schools have already trained staff in how to use the device.

“Studies have shown that up to 20 to 25 percent of reactions that occur in school occur in patients who were not previously known to be allergic,” said Dr. Brian Vickery, a pediatric allergist with UNC Hospitals.

He said simply avoiding known food allergens isn't enough.

“It results in accidental reactions, even among the most prepared and vigilant families,” Vickery said.

Camden Hughes, 6, is starting first grade this week with his own EpiPen with him. But if it can't be found, schools now have a back-up plan.

“I think it's great. I think it's a no-brainer,” Duncan Hughes said.

UNC's Pediatric Allergy and Immunology department is conducting clinical trials for types of immuno-therapy to increase a child's tolerance for certain food allergies. Those trials are at least eight to 10 years from being routinely available to patients.

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  • Claytonmomof2 Aug 28, 2014

    My daughter just received her first EpiPen. As a parent of a child who has had an allergic reaction to a particular and very common food - it's terrifying to think she could be exposed and have a severe reaction while she's away from me! This is such a great comfort to know there will always be an EpiPen nearby!