This summer, I visited our local fire department to learn more about how epinephrine is carried on ambulances [see Does Your Ambulance Carry Epinephrine?].
I discussed my findings – and surprise – with Megan Lynch, fellow food allergy parent and reporter for CBS Radio. Megan created a series about food allergies with topics ranging from an introduction to and insights into the realities of living with food allergies to issues of concern to the food allergy community such as bullying and emergency care.
Megan and I discussed many things related to food allergies, but one subject that we circled back to was emergency response. I shared with her what I had learned in my research and at the fire department. In short: not every ambulance carries epinephrine and not all emergency medical personnel are authorized to use it even when it is present. More than one medical professional I spoke with mentioned an unfortunate irony. Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of heroin (and other opioid) overdose, is widely available (without a prescription in several states) and yet epinephrine is not universally available even to ambulances and EMTs to save the life of someone suffering anaphylaxis who may have accidentally eaten a trace amount of peanuts or milk, taken the wrong medication or been stung by a bee.
We spoke at length about the rising cost of EpiPens and the effect that has had on low-income families [Read: The High Costs of High Prices: EpiPen’s Real Cost to Families]. Megan asked me what advise I had for lawmakers and for parents.
- More transparency is needed so the public can understand why epinephrine isn’t available on all ambulances and to discuss how it could be; and more communication is needed to inform us where it is and isn’t so people can have appropriate expectations.
- Consider making epinephrine available to all emergency personnel and training them on its use. (*Kudos to Illinois who joined several other states in allowing public venues to keep stock epinephrine (just as they do defibrillators) and for allowing the police to carry epinephrine.)
- I reminded parents to familiarize or RE-familiarize themselves with how to use their epinephrine auto-injectors and when to use them. Train everyone who cares for your children as well: babysitters, family members, after school program managers… If you have a pre-teen or teenager, now is a great time to train their close friends on the signs of a severe allergic reaction and prep them on how to respond.
- Finally, carry your epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times. Even when it’s inconvenient. This is especially important to underscore to teenagers and college age students. In a life-threatening situation, every minute counts. Having epinephrine on hand is critical during anaphylaxis.
Check out Megan’s five part series about food allergies – it’s sure to be both interesting and informative. Be sure to listen all five episodes, airing this week both on the radio and on the internet.
Listen on the radio (locally in the St. Louis area): KMOX NewsRadio 1120
Online at CBS Radio St. Louis