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House Passes Bill Aiming Grant Money at Allergy Attacks

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Peanuts can create alarmingly fast allergic attacks in people, although only one percent of the U.S. populace has a reported peanut allergy.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that contains good news for students with allergies.

Under the Public Health Service Act, Congress entitled the U.S. Department of Education to set up grants for states that work to address asthma in their school systems. The new bill, H.R. 2094, directs the Education Department to give higher priority to states that also take measures to address anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reactions. Measures include maintaining a secure supply of epinephrine and having personnel trained in its administration on the premises during school hours. The bill would also shield trained employees who put forth their best effort to save students experiencing an attack, even if unsuccessful.

Epinephrine, or EpiPen, is the best known antidote to anaphylactic shock. Recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown a rise in the prevalence of food allergies in children, up to about 1 in 20 children. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 38.7 percent of children with food allergies have a history of severe reactions.

H.R. 2094 won passage on a voice vote. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican, and Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip from Maryland, co-authored the bill, which also has 16 Republican and 21 Democratic co-sponsors.

The bill faces opposition from the AASA the School Superintendents Association, which helped defeat a similar bill in the Senate in November 2011. AASA considers H.R. 2094 a "feel-good bill" that would be redundant, costly, and detrimental to current grants recipients in states that don't have anaphylactic policies. The AASA frames the bill as federal policy, even though it's only modifying grant rules, in an implied nod to how cash-strapped states (all of them) need money so badly that federal grants are tantamount to mandates.

Even though allergies affect a small portion of the U.S. populace, allergy attacks are also vivid displays, and easily triggered in some people. That includes Hoyer's granddaughter, who suffered an allergy attack at Disney World due to some popcorn made with peanut oil. (She recovered.)

"[This bill] is an urging to make sure that, given the fact that we have this lifesaving capability, that that capability be deployed and be present so that no child will have to die because of a reaction to one of these allergies," he said on the House floor Tuesday.

Other representatives had similar sentiments.

"Mr. Speaker, simply put, the passage and enactment of this bill will save the lives of countless students across our country who live with severe allergies," Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, said.


Image: A peanut walked into Congress. It was a-salted. —Wikimedia Commons

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