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Michigan schools will have new tool to respond to allergic reactions

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Starting this fall, Michigan schools are required to have epinephrine injectors ready in case students suffer an allergic reaction.

Until now, students with known allergies to bee stings, peanuts and other foods could have their own epi-pens.  

But a new state law requires school districts to have epi-pens ready in case a student with no known allergies needs one. At least two staff members in each school building must be trained to use the pen-like device that helps relieve severe allergic reactions to things like peanuts or bee stings.

“You don’t want to be the school or district that’s caught surprised that there’s a student who’s never had anything happen to them before…all of a sudden have a reaction and you don’t have something on hand,” says Kim Kovalchick, the Supervisor of School Health and Safety Programs at the Michigan Department of Education. 

As part of the law, school districts will need to collect data on how often epi-pens are used.

“We’re going to get a better idea of the levels of this at the end of this school year and subsequent school years,” says Kovalchick.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in four severe or life threatening allergic reactions occurred in school children with no history of food allergies. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.