by: Amanda Warford Updated:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jason Pratt must choose wisely whenever he goes out to eat.
"Land animals I’m good with, but if it's from the ocean I've got to stay away from it."
Pratt is one of 15 million Americans coping with a severe food allergy and the number of people requiring prescriptions for epinephrine, the drug that reverses severe allergic reactions, is growing.
"The longer it takes to get treated, the more likely the person is to have a bad outcome," said Dr. Sunil Joshi, with Family Allergy and Asthma in Jacksonville.
Joshi said timing is everything when symptoms of anaphylaxis appear.
"Patients will break out in hives, throat swelling, tongue swelling, shortness of breath, and coughing."
Now a new Florida law allows restaurants, theme parks, ball fields and other public entities to take action sooner.
The Emergency Allergy Treatment Act was passed unanimously by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott recently. The law allows business owners to obtain a prescription for epinephrine to keep in first aid kits just in case.
"They can treat patrons immediately and increase the opportunity for a better outcome," said Joshi.
Joshi believes the law is common sense.
"Twenty-five percent of people will have their first allergic reaction in a school, a restaurant, or in a movie theatre when they have no access to epinephrine or limited access to 911."
The law also outlines a no-liability clause that prevents companies from being held responsible if the patron is not suffering from an allergic reaction but is injected.
"The side effects are minimal and usually go away within a few hours. Also, companies aren't required to do this, they're just encouraged, so the cost is their choice."
For patients like Pratt, it's a change that could someday save his life.
"To have that piece of mind where a restaurant has one just in case, that's nice."
The new law goes into effect July 1. If business owners choose to participate, they will receive training.
Action News also received the following statement from Dr. Dana V. Wallace, at Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care Wednesday:
"Now that the bill has been approved, the next step is for the public venues to acquire EAI, train their personnel on how to recognize and treat anaphylaxis. Only when this is accomplished, will all our Florida citizens be protected in the event of an allergic emergency."