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Thursday, Sep 18, 2014
Commentary

New law comes to aid of Floridians with severe allergies


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Within the past decade, the incidence of food allergies has skyrocketed. Food allergy cases have gone up 18 percent from 1997-2007 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With this increase, there is an increase in the need for everyone to have access to the emergency help of an epinephrine auto-injector.

A recent change in Florida law will go a long way to help this situation.

Gov. Rick Scott recently signed the Emergency Allergy Treatment Act (HB 1131) into law. Sen. Aaron Bean of Jacksonville and Rep. Matt Hudson of Naples sponsored this important legislation, which allows restaurants, theme parks, youth sports leagues, camps and other businesses to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, emergency treatment devices that can stave off anaphylactic shock.

The legislation also provides civil liability immunity protections for health care practitioners, pharmacists and others who stock and administer the emergency treatment. To do its job, the medication must be administered promptly when a victim has a severe reaction to food, an insect bite or other issues.

Anaphylaxis occurs when the throat swells shut because of an allergic reaction, typically in response to peanuts, tree nuts, fish or shellfish. It is an unpredictable allergic reaction that comes on quickly. An epinephrine injector rapidly delivers medication to the bloodstream to treat acute allergic reactions.

When anaphylaxis occurs, immediate action is vital. Taking the time to wait for 911 can be an unsafe choice. The Emergency Allergy Treatment Act combats this problem by allowing many more businesses to stock emergency treatment.

This law will ensure that more public gathering places are prepared if someone has an allergic reaction. Too often, victims don’t know they have the particular allergy or are unprepared to act. With this law in place, forgetting your epinephrine auto-injector at home when you have an allergic reaction won’t have to lead to something more serious.

All across Florida, parents are sending kids to summer camp. What should be a happy occasion can instead be a time of unease for the parents of an allergic child, knowing their little one will be encountering new foods, new plants, and new bugs. This new law can give them a great deal of comfort about their child’s safety, and providing these parents with a little peace of mind can go a long way.

I constantly see parents and patients struggling to handle the fear of anaphylaxis, and I know Florida’s new law will bring tremendous comfort to many. I want to thank the Legislature, especially sponsors Sen. Bean and Rep. Hudson, as well as Gov. Scott, for their work to alleviate some of the unease that these Floridians must suffer through.

Patrick DeMarco, M.D., works at Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida in Jacksonville. He is immediate past president of the Florida Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society.

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