ALBANY, N.Y. — Contracted school bus drivers in New York are now authorized to use EpiPens for students who have allergy attacks on the bus.
The measure, Senate Bill S6005A, was approved in June and took effect on Tuesday. It allows school bus drivers who work for contractors to administer EpiPens and other epinephrine auto-injectors in emergencies.
Epinephrine is used to treat serious allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis. On the school bus, students who have severe allergies, such as to food or bee stings, may carry an EpiPen. They could be exposed to allergens from another passenger eating a snack, for example, and could have a reaction on the bus.
New York Sen. Terrence Murphy, a sponsor of the EpiPen legislation, said in a press release that the new measure will enhance the safety of children.
“If they find themselves in a life-threatening situation, a bus driver now has the authority to administer epinephrine,” Murphy said. “Having an EpiPen available and someone who is trained to use it can literally save lives.”
State law already authorized school district employees to administer EpiPens, but it didn’t include those who work for agencies contracted out by school districts, such as transportation providers. Now, the amended law covers school bus drivers and other employees of contractors.
The change spurred some concerns about training, liability, and associated costs among members of the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA). President Bree Allen told School Bus Fleet that NYSBCA has asked the New York State Department of Health and the State Education Department to assist with implementing the new regulation.
“We are hopeful that our drivers will continue to be able to focus on their primary task — driving — and this law will be administered in such a way that it enhances safety for all the children who ride a yellow school bus in New York state,” Allen said.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. That equates to one in 13 children, or around two per classroom.
FARE also reports that about 30% of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food, and about 40% of children with food allergies have suffered a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis.
The issue appears to be on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.