As far as 8-year-old Sebastian Villa is concerned, he's just like any other little boy. That is-- until it comes to mealtime.
Sebastian has severe allergies to peanuts, eggs and wheat. If he eats even the smallest bit, he could have a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis.
"It can go from one extreme to another pretty quickly," said Orlando allergist Dr. Jose Arias.
"His trachea can actually close on him and he won't be able to breathe. It can be severe to the point that he won't be able to get any air in his system," said Sebastian's mother, Michelle Velez.
That's why Velez said she carries an EpiPen auto-injector all the time, and educates Sebastian on what to do in the case of an emergency.
"What can happen if you have peanuts, what are we going to do about it? You're going to immediately tell me and we're going to go ahead and grab the EpiPen and place it on your outer thigh," said Velez.
The auto-injectors are the easiest way to help someone in anaphylaxis. A new state bill, now in effect, not only allows schools to keep those EpiPens in stock, it allows staff to administer them on any child possibly having an anaphylactic reaction.
The bill states schools must purchase the auto-injectors themselves and are responsible for training staff members how to recognize an allergic response and use the tool correctly.
But Dr. Arias said right now, most parents don't even know the bill was passed.
"A lot of the parents that I've talked to were not aware about this when they went back to school at the beginning of the year," said Dr. Arias. "I don't think the schools are making them aware that this is now in effect for their child's protection."
That may be because most schools aren't yet stocking them.
Officials from Orange County Schools told us each principal decides whether or not their school stocks them. Other counties tells us they're waiting for guidelines from the state.
But the Department of Education officials told Local 6 because schools aren't required to stock the auto-injectors, the DOE won't be issuing any other guidelines and won't be monitoring the schools on how they choose to implement the program, or train their staff.
Dr. Arias said either way, with about two kids per classroom having food allergies, it's a good idea to have EpiPens in the building.
"There are some children who have a new allergic reaction in school and that's what good about this law," said Dr. Arias. "The school personnel will be able to use the stock EpiPen on that child, since the child does not have one with them."
That is another part of the bill; staff members who administer the EpiPen on a child they believe is having a severe allergic reaction, won't be held liable if the child is then injured, as long as they follow the adopted protocol and their action is not "willfull and wanton".
It's a measure Velez said is a great idea.
She said as far as her own son, she said education is the key. Velez even makes sure Sebastian has a bracelet he wears while at school and out of the house, to make sure anyone with him knows he has allergies.
"It's made by a company called ROXO," said Velez. "I called them and they made a bracelet with custom charms, just for Sebastian. It shows everything he's allergic to. And because it's a cool design, they make other kinds of bracelets, too, he doesn't feel embarrassed about his allergies."
She said something like that may help identify other children with allergies while at school.
Last year, 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson died after suffering an allergic reaction at her school in Virginia. Her mother said the school failed to give her Benadryl when she accidentally ate something containing peanuts. Her mother also claims the school would not keep an EpiPen in the building for the child.
In July, 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi died after accidentally eating a Rice Krispy treat that didn't normally contain peanuts. This time it did; and despite spitting that piece out and receiving three EpiPen injections, she passed away.
Dr. Arias said they're tragedies that, in most cases, can be avoided.
"With this law, no child should die from anaphylaxis anywhere in the state of Florida anymore," he said.
Dr. Arias said there are programs that actually enable schools to get up to four EpiPens to keep on hand for free. More information on that can be found by clicking here.
Velez said more EpiPens and trained school staff would bring her peace of mind.
"We don't need five more kids to die from a food allergy before they can actually take action and know that this is serious."
Dr. Arias said there are several questions you can ask your schools to get a better idea of how they will take care of your child if they're having a severe allergic reaction.
Those questions include:
-How does your school typically train teachers and staff about anaphylaxis and the use of epinephrine auto-injectors?
-Who in your school is authorized to administer epinephrine to students experiencing a severe allergic reaction?
-Does the school keep auto-injectors on hand that are not prescribed to a specific student, i.e. stock them? Where are they kept?
-Where is the students' anaphylaxis plan kept?
Facts About Food Allergies:
-Most common foods for child allergies: tree nuts, egg, milk,
fish, shellfish, soy and wheat
-Some kids with severe food allergy are victims of bullying
-If you have food allergies, you should:
1. Read the label on foods to be sure you avoiding the allergen
2. Carry Epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times
3. Have a plan and share it with family and friends
4. Practice with the provided trainer
5. Call 911 after using the epinephrine auto injector
-Do not inject an EpiPen in veins, buttocks, finger, toes, hands or feet. It's to be injected only in the lateral thigh muscle.
-EpiPens come in two doses, Junior at 0.15 for 33 to 66 pounds and Adult at 0.30 dose for greater the 66 pounds