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Self-Administration of Medication: Common Provisions

Each school day, many students need to take medication. These medications allow them to manage their health conditions. To ensure student health, we must ensure the safe and proper administration of medication. School personnel, especially the school nurse, play a significant role in this process. In public schools, the rules around self-administration of medication can vary. But there are guidelines on this important issue. These guidelines are supported by the National Association of School Nurses.

Thousands of elementary and high school students need regular dosages of medications. This helps them function throughout the day. Many children are very familiar with taking their prescribed medications. They know by heart their proper dosage and the right times to take each dose. But in a school setting, there are worries over improper dosage. There are also concerns about lost or stolen medication. Finally, there are concerns about prescription drug abuse. This has prompted states to enact restrictions on self-administration of medication at school.

This article provides a brief overview of the self-administration of medication in schools.

The Law and Self-Administration of Medication

Federal law does not require or regulate self-administration of medication by school children. There are laws that require reasonable accommodations for individual students with medical conditions. These laws include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). They also include the Rehabilitation Act. But neither law explicitly dictates when or how students can self-administer medicine. As a result, laws governing self-administration are left to the states.

State law often guides public health policies about medication administration in public schools. Many school district policies oversee this during school hours. School health services is the office that oversees this. A registered nurse usually directs school health services.

A student's parent or guardian must provide written authorization for medication. They should also state the time of administration. A licensed healthcare provider must often co-sign this written order. This could be a physician assistant or pediatrics specialist. School employees should be well-versed in relevant local policies. This is particularly true if the school staff is involved in health care services. They should know of the guidelines set by the State Board of Education.

Self-administration laws do not only vary by state. They can also vary by school district. Many states provide basic guidelines. For example, they let students carry inhalers if they have asthma. Otherwise, they let individual school districts decide when and how to involve state policy. Some school districts might have stricter policies. Others might simply mandate parental consent for certain medications. Still others mandate close supervision of self-administration of medication. This might include school officials storing the medication until needed. Or it might mean developing medical plans with the student and their physician.

Maintaining Student Health Records

Health records are a crucial part of the school health services system. These records help ensure students' safety and well-being during the school day. Professional nurses or designated health services staff members are responsible in this area. They must maintain and update these student health records. These records will contain the child's medication orders from the child's prescriber.

Parents or guardians must submit updated health information for their child. They usually have to do this at the beginning of every school year. This might include vaccination records and medication authorizations. It might also include allergy details and other relevant health conditions.

These details are filed under the student's name. Parents should also include details about drug administration or the dose of medication. The record may also contain information on any non-prescription medications the child takes. It may also include information about any topical medications the child must take.

At the end of the school year, parents can re-evaluate their child's record. They can make changes to the route of administration if needed. Parents might also review the child's medication log with their healthcare provider. They can discuss medication administration policies for the future.

Asthma and Emergency Allergic Reaction Medication

Many students have asthma. They are often at risk of anaphylaxis. Carrying and self-administering emergency medication, like epinephrine auto-injectors or inhalers, can be lifesaving. All states have passed laws addressing student use of asthma and allergy medication. Asthma, which can cause life-threatening breathing problems, often requires immediate medication. This is almost always in the form of an inhaler that delivers medicine directly to the lungs.

Every state has adopted a policy allowing students to carry inhalers. According to state laws, these students must self-carry these medications. They must have proper written authorization. This authorization must be from the student's parent and a healthcare professional. The school nurse makes sure students show competency in administering the medication.

Severe allergic reactions similarly need immediate medication to prevent a life-threatening situation. When exposed to allergens, children may go into anaphylactic shock. This can cause obstructed breathing and lowered blood pressure. As with asthma inhalers, many states have passed relevant laws. These laws allow students with documented severe allergies to carry epinephrine needles. Yet, these laws are generally stricter than laws relating to asthma inhalers.

Many states need school officials to store the medication. At the same time, they allow trained students to self-administer epinephrine when needed. Suppose a student attends a school-sponsored activity or field trip. In these cases, there should be plans to ensure access to these emergency medications.

Alternative Medications in School

Some states leave it up to individual school districts to make self-administration policies. Some will make their own policies, usually based on different factors. These factors may include the child's age and maturity and may also concern a physician's recommendations. Also, the wishes of the child's parents will be considered.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications and supplements can be necessary for some students. These non-prescriptive over-the-counter medications should be in their original container. The labeled container of any OTC medications should match a written medical order. A parent or guardian usually provides these orders. This is usually called medication authorization.

Controlled substances, even if prescribed, might have stricter regulations. This is due to the potential side effects of these medications. It's crucial for school health professionals and the school board to track the administration of all medications. This ensures they are only given to the designated student. Some schools keep a log in a medication administration record as a further precaution.

Emergency Situations

There can be instances where emergency medication is needed. Glucagon, for diabetic emergencies, is an example. Another example is rectal medications for specific seizure disorders. In these cases, a student's health care plan will provide guidance. In some cases, a student might have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

School personnel should be trained to recognize the signs of these health emergencies. They should also know how to respond promptly and appropriately. Emergency contact information for each student's parent or guardian should be easily accessible. This is in case of side effects or medication errors.

Some states allow exceptions to self-administration restrictions in emergency situations. This may include cases of severe asthma attacks or allergic reactions. Some schools don't allow kids to self-administer their medication. This is especially true when the child's medication condition is not documented.

Parents are responsible for updating school administrators on the child's health. Parents should always tell the school about their child's medical needs. Parents should also always follow school rules. This helps ensure that the child receives the care they deserve.

Getting Legal Help With Self-Administration of Medication

Ensuring the correct administration of medication in school is vital. Suppose you are confused. Or suppose there is a dispute about the self-administration of medication. In these cases, seeking legal advice is recommended.

Parents or guardians should understand the rights of their children to self-administer medication under the law. School health services can help provide resources and materials. The Department of Health and Human Services or public health agencies may also offer guidance. A lawyer can help guide you through the federal and state laws on self-administration. They can also review the school district's policy. They can help students find a solution for the student's medication.

Speak to an education lawyer today if you have a related legal issue.

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