The schedules have arrived; the supplies purchased, and the backpacks stuffed to capacity. Another school year has arrived. However, for parents of children with chronic medical conditions, there is extra homework to do. For these parents, organizing a child’s medical records, medications and emergency medical contact information is vital.
Ten to 20 million children and adolescents in the U.S. have a chronic illness or disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chronic refers to a health condition that lasts anywhere from three months to a lifetime. These conditions can range from asthma, allergies and diabetes, to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
For schools, coping with multiple children with varying medical conditions is complex. Parents and school administrators must form a partnership to ensure the well-being of all children, but especially for the children who must take prescription medications during the school day.
Inform the School
The first step for anyone responsible for taking care of a child with a chronic condition is to inform the school of any health condition your child has, including allergies. Your child’s teacher and the school nurse need to know about any illnesses and medications in advance. Even if the child takes the medication only at home, inform the nurse. If your child needs to take medications during the school day, the school may request that a physician complete a medication authorization form.
You also may need to complete a consent-to-treat form and give copies to the school nurse to keep in your child’s record and to take with them if your child should need to go to the emergency room. The consent form will allow caregivers to provide medical treatment. The form should include information related to prescription medications, medical problems, previous surgeries and pertinent family history and emergency contacts, including for your pediatrician and your child’s dentist.
You also should inform the school of any physical restriction your child may have and how the condition will affect his/her physical activity.
Make yourself aware of the school’s policies including who may administer medication, who fills in if the person is absent, and whether the school allows children to carry the medicine themselves and take it without supervision.
Provide Medication Instructions
The school will need specific details about any medication, including storage requirements and any potential side effects. Prepare a typed list of all medications with warnings and storage requirements. It is also important to ensure the label on the bottle of the medication has the most up-to-date directions.
If they will store the medication at school, check often to ensure there is an adequate supply so there are no missed doses. Make sure the medication stays in its original container and label. To reduce the amount of medication your child takes at school, try to give the morning dose of medication at home.
Create an Action Plan
A great way to plan for an emergency scenario is to write out a medical action plan school staff can refer to in a crisis. This plan will help to ensure that when any symptoms strike, there is a plan of action readily available for whoever may care for your child. Make sure your child, teachers and the school administrator have current copies.
The plan should briefly describe your child’s health condition and the steps you would like school personnel to take in case of an emergency. The plan also should include medications your child takes with dosages, symptoms they may experience and signs that a condition may be worsening. Include all emergency contact information in the plan, including your home, business and cell numbers.
Keep Your Child Informed
Children need to understand the importance of adhering to their medication schedules even during school hours. Your child should know proper dosages and when and how often to take medication. Your child also should recognize the basics of their condition and any symptoms of missing a dose, including signs of an allergic reaction or side effects of the medication.
Make your child a partner in his/her health. Children should not be afraid to speak up if they believe their health condition is changing or if they need their medication. Children should understand if they should report to a certain place at a certain time, or if the nurse will call them.
Health issues also can occur before and after school on the bus or playground. If your child is away from the school building and in need of medical attention, affix an emergency card (Spanish version) to a backpack. This card lists emergency contacts, and any special needs, medical conditions and allergies your child may have.
Enjoy the School Year
Back-to-school is a hectic time for students, parents and school administrators. Keep the lines of communication open and plan with your child’s school about his/her medical needs. It will give everyone peace of mind and help ensure a healthy, happy and productive school year.
The Trusts administered by Christian Brothers Services have chosen Express Scripts to manage the prescription drug benefit for our members. Find out more about our Prescription Drug Program.