The first time Andrea Katz realized her son, Nathan, was acutely allergic to peanuts, she didn’t have emergency epinephrine to counteract the 18-month-old’s reaction. As his mouth turned bright red, she gave him a dose of Benadryl instead.
“It was a scary moment,” recalled Katz, a Chesterfield resident. Mason has only been exposed to peanuts a couple of times since then, but Katz still worries what will happen if Nathan, now 8, accidentally eats peanuts away from home and his EpiPens, the brand name for the most commonly prescribed epinephrine auto-injectors.
“We need to have more access,” said the Burlington County mother and school board member. “I can’t follow him all the time with an EpiPen.”
This week, the state Assembly is scheduled to vote on a bill, A4094, to expand public access to emergency epinephrine.
Sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway Jr., D-Burlington, Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, and Benjie E. Wimberly, D-Passaic, the Epinephrine Access and Emergency Treatment Act would allow health care providers to prescribe auto-injectors to anyone properly trained to use them.
If adopted into law, the measure would also provide immunity for an authorized person who used an auto-injector on someone who appeared to be suffering from anaphylaxis, an allergic response that can become life-threatening if not treated.
Katz testified in support of the bill earlier this year, at Conaway’s request. She noted auto-injectors are readily available in places like Disney World.
“I would love to see that in as many places as possible,” Katz said. “I’d like to see the police carry that.”
Conaway called the bill a “common sense thing.”
“It’s just really a public safety health measure that will protect any of us,” said Conaway, who also practices internal medicine at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.
Earlier this year, New Jersey began requiring schools to maintain a supply of auto-injectors for use on students who appear to be experiencing an anaphylactic response.
Epinephrine is more commonly known as adrenaline. The epinephrine auto-injectors could have an adverse effect on people with severe heart disease, for example, but those effects aren’t worse than anaphylaxis itself, Conaway said.
Controlling access to medications is usually appropriate, but in this case, Conaway added, “it makes sense to empower people to save their own life or someone in their charge.”