ALBANY -- A new law will allow school bus drivers to administer life-saving epinephrine.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law Monday that will allow school bus drivers to give passengers having an allergic reaction the drug.
A severe allergic reaction to certain foods, bee stings and other airborne allergens can lead to anaphylaxis shock which can result in closed off air ways or cardiac arrest and death. Epinephrine works to immediately reverse the reaction.
Previously, only school district employees were allowed to administer the drug or an EpiPen to students that would stop the allergic reaction.
So in the past, school bus drivers and other school service providers would have to stand by until emergency personnel could arrive to do so.
The new law will take effect in 120 days. In the meantime, the law requires the state health and education departments to develop regulations to implement the measure.
Assemblyman David Buchwald, D-White Plains, the bill's sponsor, said it’s an important step forward. The bill passed the state Legislature in June.
“I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation and thank in advance the New York State Department of Health that will need to move quickly to issue the regulations necessary for the timely implementation of this act,” he said in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 4 percent and 6 percent of school age children have severe food allergies.
The number of children with food allergies has increased nearly 50 percent over the past 20 years, and the number of people with peanut and tree nut allergies has more than tripled in that time, the agency said. The most common allergies among school-age children are nuts, eggs, wheat and soy. Approximately one in five students with allergies will have a reaction at some point during the school day, the agency said.
The new laws "covers a big loophole in student school bus transportation that we were greatly concerned about,” said Jon Terry, founder of the Allergy Advocates Association, which is based near Rochester, in a statement.
Other states, Massachusetts and Illinois, have recently passed similar laws.
In 2015, a Massachusetts bus driver was honored after saving the life of a 15-year-old student by injecting the student with epinephrine when she had a severe allergic reaction to peanuts, according to the bill.
Local co-sponsors in the legislature included: Assemblyman Michael Kearns, Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, and Senator Tim Kennedy. The law was praised by many advocates, including Western New York native Tracy Hurley, the mother of a 10-year-old son with allergies.
"The bus driver, is now able to administer the epinephren freely, without having to worry about any liability. So now, it really helps make me feel more comfortable," she said.
The legislation did not specify what type of training might be needed for bus drivers.