Weatherford ISD officials are prepared to administer Benadryl to students or staff experiencing an allergic reaction rather than unassigned EpiPens.
The change does not apply to those who have notified the school nurse about their prescription for EpiPens.
Epinephrine auto-injectors, sometimes referred to as EpiPens, treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
Since 2015, school districts have created policies to administer unassigned EpiPens, which are not prescribed to a certain person, in case of emergencies.
Recently, the Department of State Health Services reinterpreted the policy and requires districts to follow certain guidelines regarding unassigned EpiPens. New guidelines include providing a trained person to administer the unassigned EpiPens at all times that the school is open. The new regulations went into effect in August.
WISD Board President Mike Guest said having enough trained people to administer unassigned EpiPens at all hours and locations of school operation for WISD’s 11 campuses “wasn’t going to be a workable process” for the district.
“They kind of tied our hands with the new law, on what we can do,” Guest said. “We understand to a certain degree why they did what they did.”
WISD trustees voted in November to approve changes to the policy, which allowed district officials to give non-prescription medicine to those experiencing a possible allergic reaction. The decision includes the creation of training for students and staff about the symptoms of allergic reactions.
In December, District Nurse Coordinator Shealee Mitchell sent a letter to parents and guardians about the new Benadryl protocol.
“Each campus nurse will now have access to Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to administer in the event of an allergic reaction rather than an unassigned EpiPen,” Mitchell wrote in the letter. “Benadryl is an antihistamine typically prescribed as treatment for minor allergies. The protocol for administering Benadryl is based on student weight and was created by Dr. Steven Welch, our Kanga Care physician affiliated with the Parker County Hospital District Outreach Program.”
Parents should provide Benadryl or EpiPens to the school nurse if their child suffers from allergies, Mitchell wrote.
Mitchell wrote that symptoms of an allergic reaction can include swelling, hives, digestive problems, itchy or tightening throat, shortness of breath or sneezing. She said implementation of an education program for students and staff to recognize allergic symptoms is underway.
“The WISD board of trustees’ approval of a Benadryl protocol is a unique and proactive treatment in the event of an allergic reaction,” Executive Director of Organizational Culture Charlotte LaGrone said.
LaGrone said she is not aware of any other district that has adopted a policy using Benadryl.
The Benadryl protocol allows district officials to respond to possible allergic reactions while waiting for emergency services to arrive, Guest said.
Developing the new protocol was a group process between board members, district officials, school nurses and Kanga Care officials, Guest said. They also consulted with other districts affected by the state’s new regulations.
“The most important thing is the safety of our kids,” Guest said. “The community can see that that’s consistently on our minds, whether it be from safety in the school, safety medically or whatever comes about, we want our kids to know that they’re safe and they’re protected and they’re taken care of.”