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Going to School with Medication

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

  • Only give medicines that are needed.
  • Try to schedule dosing times outside of school when possible.
  • Label all medicines, and give clear instructions for use.
  • Make sure the child understands the medication plan.
  • Keep the school nurse and teachers informed about any changes in medicines or other health needs.
  • Have a plan for emergencies.

Discuss return to school with the care team

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.

Know school policies for medications

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.

Communicating with the school: tips for parents

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

  • Who will oversee my child’s medicines?
  • How are staff trained to give medicines?
  • How is medication administration documented?
  • How will I be notified if there is a problem, error, or missed dose?
  • How and where are medicines stored?
  • What forms and documentation are needed for each medicine?

Document and give consent for each medication

Schools require parents to document each medicine to be given at school. This usually includes:

  • Signed authorization from a doctor
  • Written consent from a parent/guardian to give the medicine at school

The school usually has a specific medication authorization form to complete. This form should include key information:

  • Child’s name
  • Medication name
  • Dates to be given including stop date if known
  • Reason for taking the medication
  • Instructions for administration
    • Dose
    • Route or method of administration
    • Administration time or schedule
    • Special instructions (with or without food)
  • Parent name and emergency contact information
  • Doctor name and contact 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.

Provide all supplies, and give clear instructions

A parent or guardian needs to make sure that the school has all the information and supplies to give medications safely and correctly.

  • Provide specific, clear, detailed instructions for each medicine.
  • Clearly label all medicines.
  • Provide medicines to the school.
    • Medicines should be given to the school by the parent or guardian. A child should not transport medicine.
    • Keep track of expiration dates.
    • Know when a new supply will be needed.
  • Communicate with school staff about your child’s health and medicines.
    • Educate staff about potential side effects.
    • Notify staff if your child wears a patch or uses a medical device or pump.
    • Let staff know about medicines that should not be given to your child due to potential drug interactions or masking a fever. Some schools have “on hand” over-the-counter medicines (acetaminophen, anti-inflammatories, and antihistamines) that may be given to any student.
  • Know who will give medicines to your child. Understand the process for managing and documenting proper administration including schedule and dose.
  • Update and communicate changes in writing.
  • Pick up and dispose of expired or unused medicines at the end of the school year.
  • Educate your child.
    • Older children should know their medication information such as drug name, dose, administration information, and side effects.
    • Younger children should know where they will go to get medicines and who will give them.
    • All children should learn not to share medicines and only use them as told by a doctor or parent.
    • Teach children to be self-advocates. Let children know it is ok to ask questions. Identify an adult at school that the child should talk to if there is a problem or concern. Learn more about talking to children about medicine safety.

Store medications safely

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 pharmacist about special storage requirements such as refrigeration, protection from light, or precautions. Be sure to clearly label storage instructions, and communicate these to the school.
  • Store all medicines in their original bottle or package. All prescription medications should be labeled by the pharmacy. Medications should not be mixed together or placed in bags or envelopes.
  • The medication label must include:
    • Child’s name
    • Date
    • Medication name
    • Dose
    • Frequency
    • Route
    • Expiration date
    • Physician
    • Pharmacy

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.


Plan for special circumstances

Student self-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.

  • Self-administration should still be documented by school staff to ensure compliance and accuracy.
  • Teachers and other staff members should be educated about the medication. Keep proper authorization forms with specific medication information.
  • Do not allow controlled substances to be self-administered or carried by a child.
  • Make sure that emergency medicines (such as inhalers, epinephrine, insulin, glucose) can be given quickly. If a child cannot self-administer or if it is against the policy for a student to carry these medicines, be sure that policies and action steps are in place for quick access and administration.
  • Include friends in age-appropriate education and support. This is especially important for teens as they gain independence and responsibility over their medical care.

Field trips

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.

Find more information on going to school with medications

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a variety of resources to help families and schools plan for and administer medicines.

Reviewed: November 2019