Meds in the Backpack
As more children take medications like Ritalin, it is important for parents to think about the process involved in sending children to school with medications. If your child needs to take medication during the school day, it may effect his health status if he doesn't get it. However, if medication is mishandled, it can pose a risk for your child and others as well. The number one concern for parents and school personnel should be to provide a safe environment for the children. Handling medications safely is a big part of that safe environment.
If you aren't sure about your school district's medication policy, call and ask to speak with the school nurse. If your school doesn't have a nurse, talk with the principal. At the minimum, most schools require a note from a parent, requesting that the medication be given. Depending on state law and local district policy, a physician's order may also be needed.
Think about how many pills you should send and how the school will notify you when more pills are needed. After you learn of your responsibility, ask questions about who will help your child with the medicine, where will it be stored, and whether someone will remind him to come for the medicine or if this will be his own responsibility. Be sure to check if different guidelines apply for short-term medication, such as a ten-day supply of antibiotics, or for over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup.
Getting it to school
If at all possible, take the medicine to school yourself and give it the school nurse or the person responsible for the medications. Try to avoid sending your child to school carrying medication on the bus. I have heard of children sharing their medication and in some cases, a teasing bully has even taken another child's medications to sell it to others. If your child must carry his medication on the bus, stress the importance of leaving the pill bottle in his book bag or his pocket. Be sure you child understands where to take the medication and that it should be given to an adult.
Periodically check with the school nurse and the teacher about your child's compliance in taking medicine at school. Let the school know if your child's medication regime changes.
It is helpful for the school nurse and teacher to know if your child is taking medication at home, even if a dose isn't required at school. They will be alert to any adverse reaction and let you know if it has the desired effect during the school day.
Little confusions can lead to big problems
Keeping track of children's medications might seem simple -- and it might seem that all a parent has to do is send his child to school with a note to the teacher explaining the dosage. But it's not always that simple. Sometimes children forget to give teachers important notes.
Michael, for example, had been taking 20 mg of Ritalin, supplied in 10 mg tablets in a bottle labeled "Take two tablets at noon." On Monday, Michael brought in his same bottle with 10 pills. The Nurse Assistant counted and recorded the number of pills sent for Michael. She was planning to give Michael his regular two tablets at noon.
Later that morning while helping Michael search for an assignment, his teacher just happened to find a note in his book bag which read, "Michael's pills are changed from 10 to 20 mg."
Michael hadn't remembered to give his teacher the note, and luckily she had found it before he had taken a double dose of medication. The next day Michael came to school with the 20 mg Ritalin tablets in their original pharmacy bottle labeled "Give one tablet at noon." This is a perfect example of why we must all work together to keep our children safe.