The American Medical Association voted Monday to lobby for laws allowing severely allergic children to bring lifesaving medicine to school.

Many school districts have policies prohibiting children from bringing medicine to school and 18 states have similar bans, said Dr. Duane Cady, a member of the AMA's Board of Trustees.

When it comes to serious food allergies, denial of medicine at school can be a matter of life and death, according to a measure AMA delegates adopted at their annual policy meeting.

Dr. Mohammed Khan, a Buffalo, N.Y. physician, said his two children have severe allergies to foods including peanuts.

"The moment they entered the school system, you have no control" over getting them their medicine there, he said.

Khan said he had to hire a lawyer to fight one school district's policies — something the AMA says parents shouldn't have to do.

The new AMA policy refers to medicine including prescription epinephrine and other injectable drugs that treat severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness and death.

"Life-threatening allergic reactions to foods can easily happen at school or away from home, and an epinephrine injection at the first sign of a reaction is critical," said AMA board member Dr. Rebecca Patchin.

All states should have laws that allow children to protect themselves, she said.

Food allergies affect about 12 million Americans, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. Each year, severe food allergies send 30,000 people to emergency rooms and kill more than 100 people nationwide.

Evidence suggests food allergies are increasing, and that reported peanut allergies in U.S. children doubled to 0.8 percent from 1997 to 2003, according to the AMA measure.

The new policy also urges schools to develop preparedness plans for dealing with severe allergic reactions and make sure that all affected children have an individual emergency care plan.