Students with severe allergies join those with diabetes and asthma in their ability to carry and use their own "rescue" medication at school.

With written consent from both a parent and physician on file with the school, students who have an anaphylactic-reaction allergy to food, insect bites and other things can carry their own epinephrine auto-injector and use it without waiting for someone approved by the school to retrieve and administer the treatment.

Adults who don't need the medication themselves can complete a training course and get a prescription for the life-saving tool. That's important for camp counselors, river guides, teachers and others, says Travis Scoresby, assistant training coordinator in the state health department's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. Someone who uses one in good faith and as they were trained is protected from liability by good Samaritan laws.

If a teacher or school staff member asks for training, the school has to make it available. In the past, some discouraged training for fear of liability. School nurses or other designated individuals can provide the training. "We are trying to enable people to have the training and the tools on hand to help if the situation arises," Scoresby said.

Right now, two training programs are approved; others may be added. One is offered through the American Red Cross, while the other is part of the Emergency Medical Technician basic course. Training includes how to properly store and use an auto-injector, as well as knowing the symptoms of an allergic reaction that would call for it.

Although the epinephrine is not likely to hurt someone who is given it but doesn't need it, there's a possibility that someone administering it improperly could injure himself, he said. That also would deprive the person who needs the epinephrine of getting it. That's why health officials want to be sure people who administer it know what they're doing.

The Utah Food Allergy Network, which pushed hard for children to be able to maintain their own medication, documented one case where a child was having a severe allergic reaction and the person at the school with access to the medication, which was locked up, was on vacation. UFAN parents, said founder Michelle Fogg in a news release, want their children to have access to immediate treatment if they have an emergency at school.

A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology said about 25 percent of food allergy emergencies happen at school. Of those, nearly four in five occur in the classroom, according to the Journal of School Nursing.

Not all of the children know they have a severe allergy or will be prepared. Someone could be exposed to a food or insect venom or other allergen for the first time, and they certainly wouldn't have an auto-injector on them. That's why having responsible adults who are trained is considered so important. With anaphylactic shock, which swells the air passages and tongue, "it takes too long for the ambulance to get there. We want someone who has one on site trained to use it," Scoresby said.

E-mail: [email protected]