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Administering Medication at School: Tips for Parents

​If your child needs medications during school hours, it is important to keep in mind the following information.

Actions Before School

  • Ask your pharmacist to divide your child's medication into 2 bottles, each with its own label so that one can be kept at home and one can be kept (if allowed) at the school.

  • New medication should not be administered for the first time at school. As a precaution, you should always closely supervise the first time dose of any new prescription medication or any over-the-counter medicine that your child has never taken before for at least 12- 24 hours.

Getting Medicine to School

  • All medication should be transported to the school by an adult and handed to another adult. Do not allow your child to carry his or her medication unless he or she is old enough and mature enough to handle the responsibility. Also, make sure it is allowed by the school.

  • Your child should not carry his or her medication during school hours unless you, the doctor, and the school believes it is necessary for immediate access to emergency medication. Younger children are generally not mature enough to self-carry their own medications, but the school should make sure there is immediate access to emergency medications.

  • All prescription and nonprescription medication (including vitamins) given in school settings require written authorization from your child's doctor, as well as parent written consent. This is a requirement of the rules that school nurses must follow in most states. Ask your school for the medication administration forms they use.

  • All medication must be brought to school in the original labeled container prepared by the pharmacy, doctor, or pharmaceutical company (i.e., no envelopes, foil, or baggies). The label should include the following:

    • Child's name

    • Name of medication

    • Dosage of medication to be given

    • Frequency of administration

    • Route of administration

    • Name of physician ordering medication

    • Date of prescription

    • Expiration date

Medication Instructions for School Staff

  • School staff involved in medication administration receives special training and work in consultation with a nurse or other health care consultant.

  • Your child's doctor must include the following instructions with the medication:

    • Date of order

    • Name of child

    • Reason for medication

    • Name of medication to be administered

    • Dosage

    • Time of administration

    • Route of administration

    • Length of time the medication needs to be given

    • Possible side effects

    • Special requirements such as "take with food"

    • Whether or not medication may be self-administered

  • School staff is not authorized to determine when an "as needed" medication is to be given. Specific instructions are necessary (e.g., every 4 hours, as needed for headache). For children with chronic health conditions, this can be determined in collaboration with the consulting nurse.

Unused or Expired Medicines 

  • Unused medications should be returned to the parent/guardian for disposal. In the event medication cannot be returned to the parent or guardian, it should be disposed of according to the recommendations of the US Food and Drug Administration. See How to Safely Dispose Old Medicines for more information and tips.

  • Make a note of expiration dates and discuss with school what procedure they have to communicate with parents about expired medications that need to be replaced. 

Field Trip Considerations

  • Ask your child's doctor if your child's medication can be taken at an alternate time.

  • All school field trips must make it possible for your child's medication to be transported, stored, and given properly.

  • If your child has a chronic condition and requires regular or emergency medications, work with the school to allow enough time prior to the trip for arrangements to be made for the medications to be administered during the trip.

Medication at College

  • Ask the college health center staff what kind of medical information they will need related to your teen, and how to arrange for prescription refills.

  • If your teen is taking medication to treat a health or mental health condition, make sure he or she knows the name of the medication, how is it taken, side effects, and whether any foods or drinks should be restricted (e.g., alcohol).  

  • Make sure your teen's roommates, resident advisor (RA) and/or the college health center staff know about any emergency medications your teen may need and where he or she keeps them. If your teen's condition is particularly complex or challenging, consider talking with or meeting with a health center staff member before the academic year starts.

Additional Information & Resources:

Last Updated
Council on School Health (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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