Important lessons for parents and kids on medications at school

By Amir Ghassemi

The start of the New Year means resolutions, new goals and building good habits. If your child uses maintenance medications, it’s also a good time to check in with them and their school to ensure they’re taking their medications properly and have the support in place when you’re not around.

Keeping your child informed, open communication and understanding proper adherence and storage will help ensure your medication doesn’t get into the wrong hands and that your child and their classmates remain safe, and of course, healthy.

Communicate with your child

and health professionals

The first steps in ensuring your child is safe and informed on their medications is to be informed yourself. Ask your doctor or pharmacist any questions around your child’s medications and have an open conversation with your child about their condition and the importance of taking their medication when they are supposed to.

Making sure your child is involved in their medication plan is key in helping them feel empowered and comfortable, especially if they have to take medication outside of the home. Explain your child’s condition and their medication in a way that applies to them. For example, if your child has a nut or food allergy and requires an Epi-Pen simply explain how their body ingests food differently than their friends. It is also a good idea to regularly check the expiration date on the Epi-pen. Having these conversations and going through their medication schedule and routines at home helps build good habits for when they are at school.

Keeping kids informed opens a dialogue should they have any questions, and parents should also let their child know that it’s okay to speak up if something doesn’t seem right with their medication.

Outside of home, communicate with the principal, teacher or daycare providers about any health conditions, medications and dietary restrictions your child may have. Parents should familiarize themselves with the school or daycare policy such as whether your child can carry their medication with them or if adult supervision is required when taking them. If the child is too young to understand or administer the medication themselves, parents should leave instructions and the medication with the administrator. Make sure you know who is administering your child’s medication at school, the new year is also a good time to check in to see if there are any procedure or policy changes.

Properly storing medications at school

Depending on the school’s policy, it may be best to leave medication with your child’s teacher or administrator to store it safely away from other students.

It’s best to keep all medicine in the original packaging so the child’s name, dosage of medication, frequency of administration and emergency contacts are properly labelled. For children who are old enough, they can transport medications for chronic conditions such as puffers or Epi-Pens in easy to carry bags, like a fanny pack, for example, otherwise they can store them in their backpacks. Medications are typically dispensed with child-proof lids, but if children are to access the contents then they should have an adult provide the medication to them.  This ensures the correct amount given, but the child can also help to remind the adult to keep them a part of the treatment regimen.

To ensure friends and classmates don’t accidentally get their hands on your child’s medication it’s best to communicate to your child that their medication is their own and should be kept to themselves. While food or nut allergies and asthma are common for many children, it’s fair to explain to your child that they can keep their conditions private too, if they choose.

Monitor your child’s medication supply if they are being stored at the school. The Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy takes a proactive approach in ensuring patients have the right supply at the right time, but not all pharmacies are the same. They suggest to parents that if the medication has to be stored at school, check in often, to ensure they have enough on hand so as not to miss any doses. If anything changes with your child’s health, medications or diet throughout the school year, make sure the right people are informed.

The best way to keep your child and their classmates safe when it comes to medications at school starts with open and informed conversations with your healthcare provider and at home. Like all good habits, getting your child to adhere to their medication plan starts at an early age. Keep your child in the loop, have frequent check-ins with teachers and school officials and trust your pharmacist and doctors with any questions or concerns.

Amir Ghassemi, is Pharmacy Manager, Ontario, for Express Scripts Canada. For more information or any tips on maintenance medications and prescription drugs, visit