By: Rani S. Gereige, MD, MPH, FAAP & Toni Gross, MD, FAAP
Children spend a big part of their day in school. That’s why it is important to make sure your child’s school is prepared to deal with emergencies. Injuries can happen in or out of the classroom. Many kids also have medical conditions that may flare up and require urgent attention.
You and your child’s pediatrician can work together to prepare for these situations. It helps to become aware of medical response plans at your child's school. Then, provide the school with as much information as possible to help your child in an emergency.
Caring for chronic medical conditions & injuries at school
About 1 in 5 kids in the United States has a special health need or a chronic medical condition that requires ongoing medications. Examples include asthma, seizures, diabetes allergies, and behavioral and mental health conditions. Chronic medical conditions, even when under control, sometimes have symptom flare-ups that can lead to a medical emergency while at school.
In addition, 10%-25% of childhood injuries occur while children are in school. Not every school has a licensed health professional or a
nurse onsite. That is why parents of children with chronic medical conditions, in particular, should learn whether their child's school can administer medications and treat medical emergencies and injuries if needed.
As you consider enrolling your child in a school, ask these questions:
Does the school have trained or licensed medical personnel such as a school nurse onsite? Full-time or part-time?
Do school personnel have the skills and capabilities to follow your child's disease action plan? Can they administer the medication your child needs and follow the emergency action plan from your child's pediatrician?
Is the school equipped or does it have a process or policies in place to address medical emergencies with local emergency medical services (EMS)? Do school personnel receive routine training for these situations?
Have an action plan
Work with your child's pediatrician to ensure that all disease-specific action plans, including orders for medication to be given in school, are carried out appropriately. Your child's pediatrician can help you communicate with school personnel and advocate for your child. This includes school readiness for disease-specific emergencies. Together, you can make sure that your child's medical needs in school are met.
Your child's pediatrician can access standardized emergency health information forms and help you complete them for the school. Information could include your contact information, health provider contact information, medications, allergies, dietary restrictions, any emergency treatment plans for certain conditions (such as
severe allergies) recommended activity levels and information about health equipment.
After a medical emergency at school
If an emergency occurs in the school, your child's pediatrician may follow-up with the school to debrief on what happened and the actions taken. Also, be sure to follow-up with your pediatrician to ensure your child's safe return to the classroom and provide any necessary instructions to the school including any changes in the action plan and/or medications.
If your child has special conditions or needs, work with your child's pediatrician to ensure that these needs and recommendations are communicated to your child's school. A strong team of family, pediatrician and school is the best preparation for medical emergencies that occur at school.
About the authors
Rani S. Gereige, MD, MPH, FAAP is a member of the AAP Council on School Health and the Chair of the AAP Committee on Continuing Medical Education. He is a general pediatrician who serves as the Director of Medical Education and Designated Institutional Official at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, Florida.
Toni K. Gross, MD, MPH, FAAP is a former member of the AAP Committee on Pediatric Emergency Medicine who practices pediatric emergency medicine and EMS medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, serving as Chief of Emergency Medicine at Children's Hospital New Orleans.