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Some children need to take medicine at school. It is important for the care team, family, and school to work together to make sure that medicine is given safely and correctly.
Medicines at school: tips for parents
Families can work with their doctor and pharmacist to limit medicines at school if possible. However, certain medicines may be needed. Parents should understand the purpose of each medicine, dosing instructions, and possible side effects.
Some medication side effects can cause problems at school. The care team can help families plan ways to cope with side effects. Rest breaks, special bathroom or eating permissions, or classroom learning accommodations can help make a student’s return to school easier.
Each school has different policies for medicines. In the United States, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects students with disabilities at federally funded schools. This law does not address short term medical needs or medications. Laws for medications in schools are set by each state. State laws differ on school nurse requirements and which school staff can give medicines, including staff training. It is up to the school district to create and follow medication policies.
As soon as you know that your child will need medicines at school, meet with school administrators. Be sure you understand the school policies and requirements.
Questions to ask about school medication policies
Schools require parents to document each medicine to be given at school. This usually includes:
The school usually has a specific medication authorization form to complete. This form should include key information:
The parent or guardian should make sure this information is always up to date. Provide updates in writing with any changes such as new medication, dose change, or discontinuation.
A parent or guardian needs to make sure that the school has all the information and supplies to give medications safely and correctly.
It is important for families to know how medicines are stored at the school. Each school has a policy for safe storage of medications.
Ask your pharmacy to provide 2 labeled bottles for each medication that will be taken to school. Keep one container at home, and take one to school.
Nonprescription medications (over the counter medicines) should be kept in their original bottles and labeled with child’s name, drug name, strength, dose, time, frequency, route, expiration date, and reasons for administration.
Some schools may allow students to carry and self-administer medications. Children must demonstrate that they understand and can manage their medicines. Doctor approval may also be needed.
Field trips can be a challenge for storing and giving medicines. The key is to plan ahead for when and how the medicine will be given. Identify an adult who is willing and able to help your child, and give clear instructions. Make sure that the medicine can be stored safely. When possible, work with your doctor and pharmacist to see if a dose can be rescheduled.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a variety of resources to help families and schools plan for and administer medicines.
The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools has updates on state policies on administration of medication in schools.
Reviewed: November 2019