Packing a lunch, signing permission slips and laying out clean clothes for the morning are all part of parents’ to-do lists when prepping for their children’s day at school. But for parents of the 6.5 million American children being treated for a chronic medical condition, preparing for school also means putting pill bottles in backpacks along with lunchboxes.
“Like so many other healthy behaviors, learning the importance of taking your medicine as prescribed is better done sooner than later,” says Paul Reyes, an Express Scripts’ pharmacist and host of Ask the Pharmacist radio series. “For kids who need to take medicine to treat a chronic condition like asthma, attention deficit disorder or diabetes, having the support of parents and the school staff makes it easier and allows them to focus on their schoolwork rather than getting side-tracked by their health problem.”
Paul offers important tips for parents whose child has to take prescription medications during the school day:
- Know your school’s rules: Who is allowed to administer medication, and who fills in if that person is absent? Is your child allowed to carry the medicine and take it without supervision?
- Provide clear instructions: Prepare a typed list of all medications with warnings and storage requirements. Also include an action plan school staff can refer to in an emergency. Make sure your child, their teachers and the appropriate school administrator have current copies.
- Know how your child will receive the medication: Will he be expected to report to a certain place at a certain time, or will he be called to do so? What is the policy for field trips?
- Keep your child informed: Your child should be aware of the basics of their condition – signs of an allergic reaction, a flare-up, or side effects of the medication. Your child should know proper dosages, be able to recognize the medication and be aware of when and how often they are supposed to take it. Tell your child never to share or sell their medications to other students, and not to tamper with the medication.
- Discuss with your child how to handle others’ reactions, as well as questions or taunts other kids might direct at your child. Try your best to make sure your child does not feel stigmatized.
- Keep tabs on the supply: If the medication will be stored 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, and make sure that all the information is clear and easy to read.
- Have an a.m. game plan: School mornings can be hectic, so try to integrate the morning dose into the morning routine. Also have a back-up plan in place if that morning dose is missed and your child needs to take it at school.
Making sure children get their medication as prescribed takes a team effort from pharmacists, parents, educators and the kids themselves. Working together, the team can help ensure children go through the school year confident they’re getting the medicine they need to stay healthy.