Asthma at School: Should Your Child Carry Their Own Asthma Medications?

  • The Asthma and Allergy Network, Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) held an Asthma Awareness day on Capitol Hill in 2002.  There they heard tragic stories of school children who did not get to their asthma medications in time and died.  In most instances, the medications were locked in an office at school, not with the child. Every school year there are more reports like these.

    In 2010 the last state finally passed it's asthma-medication law.  Now, children in all 50 states are legally allowed to carry their asthma medications at school.  This can be critical for children who need a rescue inhaler for an immediate attack. Before allowing your child to carry their inhaler, they need to know how to use it correctly. 

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    Children as young as three years old can begin learning to use their inhaler with a spacer.  They will need proper instruction, supervision and practice to get it down.  Many doctor's offices have tools that children can practice on while they learn their medications.  Our daughters have a practice inhaler now that whistles when they breathe in correctly.  This will help them down the road when they no longer need their spacers.

    There are many additional factors that determine whether your child is ready to carry their own medications.  Some of the things to consider might include:

    • Do you have a school nurse on campus?
    • Does your child want to be responsible for their medication?
    • Will your child readily identify when they need to use their medication?
    • Does your child know their asthma triggers?
    • Is your child embarrassed to use their medication or excuse themselves to use it?
    • Does your child have the proper techniques to use their medications unassisted?
    • Will your child notify an adult if they have had to use their medication?
    • Can your child identify any potential side effects from their medication?
    • Will your child share medications?
    • Will your child take their medication for reasons other than intended ones?
    •  Will your child leave their medications unattended?

    All school districts have different rules and policies regarding children self-administering and self-carrying their medications.  There is usually paperwork needed in order to allow your child to do this.  Your school nurse, counselor or principal should be able to tell you what paperwork needs to be submitted and when it is due.  It is important to discuss these issues prior to the beginning of the school year because most of the time a doctor's signature is needed on the forms.

    It is important to teach your child the skills needed to be responsible for their own health and medication.  Gradually teaching these skills with age-appropriate tools is the best way to prepare your child for the task.  When your child does start carrying their own medications be sure there is back up medication at school, with the nurse or responsible adult, just in case.  This is the best way to insure quick access to asthma medications when needed and it may just save your child's life.

    Check out my previous blog, Resources and Tools: Teaching Your Child About Asthma for tips to start educating your child about their asthma.

Published On: October 08, 2014