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How to safely send your child to school with medication

Before you throw your child’s medication in his backpack with instructions to give it to his teacher, know that many schools have protocols your must follow. Whether your child must take a medication long-term, short-term or just during an allergic reaction, we spoke with experts on how to make sure your child is getting the medication he needs when he needs it.

“Most schools and school districts have their policies for handling student medications,” says MVP Kids Care Pediatrician Dr. Fred Shulski. “These policies usually include paperwork that your pediatrician must document and sign. Typical paperwork includes the medication name, dosage, time and reason for use. This paperwork and medication is usually filed or stored in the school nurse’s office.”

Make sure you prepare ahead, especially if your child will need long-term medications, says CBS medical expert and registered nurse Barb Dehn, who is also known as Nurse Barb.

“Parents of little ones should bring the labeled bag in and hand it to the appropriate person in the office or directly to the teacher,” says Nurse Barb. “If your child has specific chronic conditions, call or go to the school one to three days ahead of time to develop a plan that fits with their policies and your child’s specific needs,” she says.

Do you have a medication that needs to be taken both at home and at school? Dr. Shulski says to ask your pharmacy to split the prescription into two properly labeled containers.

Whether it’s an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen or cough drops, or prescription medication, make sure you have talked to the teachers and school nurses ahead of time to make sure your child is getting the proper dose.

“It’s best to have everything clearly labeled and to have whomever is giving the medication demonstrate that they understand,” says Nurse Barb, who gives the following examples of clear labeling:

  • Suzy takes 2 tablets of Medication A at 12 noon with food.
  • Henry takes 1 capsule of Medication B at 10 a.m. with a full glass of water.
  • Josh takes 2 puffs of his inhaler at 10 am, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. If Josh is having any difficulty breathing, he can use his inhaler in between times.

For long-term medications, make sure you talk to the teachers and administrators before the craziness of the first day of school, says Nurse Barb.

“It’s best for parents to talk to the teachers and administrators ahead of the first day of school and then check back after one week, a month and regularly. The first day of school is very hectic and that’s not the best day to spring something new on teachers and administrators,” she says.

For short-term medication, such as for a cold or an infection, Nurse Barb says to let the school know your child needs this on a schedule. “Do not send your child to school with their meds and expect them to remember to take it at the correct time. It’s so much better to work with the school,” she says.

If your child needs to have emergency medication, such as EpiPen for allergies or inhalers for asthma, Dr. Shulski says you need all the above mentioned documentation, along with an action plan that is signed by your pediatrician. “Every student with asthma should have an asthma action plan that has emergency contact information filed with the school nurse,” he says.

When is your child old enough to carry his own medication, such as his inhaler or an EpiPen? Talk with the prescribing doctor and find out his professional opinion and check with your school, as well.

“Every child is different, and some can carry their medications with them as young as 9 or 10, others need more time to be mature enough to have it with them and use it without letting friends handle or try the medication. Some schools make the decision for you and don’t allow your child to carry their meds with them. So again, it’s best to check,” says Nurse Barb.

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