UPDATED 11/14/11 1:51 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois’ two U.S. Senators plan to introduce legislation to make it easier for kids with allergies to get the help they need.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports, U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) held a joint news conference Monday at Children’s Memorial Hospital in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, with plans for legislation to improve student access to epinephrine injectors, commonly called epi-pens.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

An estimated six million children in the country have food allergies and for many of them, an epi-pen could save their lives, officials say.

The legislation that Kirk and Durbin plan to introduce, would give preference for federal asthma grants to states that require schools to carry epi-pens, train their staff to use them, and protect good Samaritans.

Dr. Jacqueline Pongracic, head of allergy and immunology at Children’s Memorial Hospital, says 18 percent of accidental allergic reactions occur at school.

Dr. Sarah Boudreau-Romano three of her four children have severe allergies, and two of them have been saved from deadly reactions with epi-pens.

“After Dylan’s first bite of cookie, he began to vomit, cough and gag. He turned blue around his lips. He grew weak and non-responsive. We had no idea he was going to be allergic than egg,” Boudreau-Romano said. “If it were not for the swift use of injectable epinephrine, this handsome and funny boy may not be standing here today.”

A state law with such a purpose is already on the books in Illinois. The law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August allows schools to stock and use shots to help children having severe allergic reactions.

The law lets schools administer the allergy shot without fear of liability, by giving them an epinephrine injection.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s office pointed out in August that a growing number of American children are being diagnosed with food allergies. A total of 1 in 13 children now suffer from food allergies, and nearly 40 percent have a severe reaction, the governor’s office said.

Peanuts are the most common allergen, followed by milk and shellfish, the governor’s office said.

Under state law before the recently-passed bill, schoolchildren with severe allergies could carry their own epi-pens for epinephrine injections, and could allow school staff to administer the injections in an emergency. But schools were not allowed to stock epi-pens themselves.

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