BY HEIDI WOODARD, RESOURCE & REFERRAL COUNSELOR, CHAUTAUQUA OPPORTUNITIES
The use of medication for young children is on the rise. This increase is due to several reasons: the increase in asthma treatments, a greater reliance on medication for behavior control, and the increased incidence of some diseases. Most medications given to children are for colds, infections and pain or fever, but many children are diagnosed with chronic conditions such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), diabetes, depression or asthma where therapeutic drugs have become a way of life.
Educators and parents must work together to develop appropriate strategies for the use of medication in the child care or school setting. A child’s medical condition and the drugs being used to treat it require good communication between parents, teachers, nurses, providers, counselors, and children.
By keeping good records of your child’s medical history, everything from immunizations to allergies, you will be prepared should she become seriously or chronically ill. Update your home health file regularly as you will need it again and again when enrolling your child in child care or summer programs. Take careful note of any medications that may have caused an adverse reaction.
Provide your child care provider or school nurse with the names and phone numbers of your child's health care professionals. For chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, or diabetes, write down when the illness was first diagnosed, how it is being treated, and what drugs are being used for treatment. To help prevent a mix-up, be sure to write down any special instructions directly on the bottle, such as before or after meals, or with or without a drink.
Administering Medications in the Child Care or School Setting
Parents and school nurses or child care providers must develop a good system of communication with one another to know where medications are consistently kept, who has access to them and who administers them. Most questions about administering medications are best answered by the doctor or pharmacist but here are a few general guidelines you can keep in mind:
• Most liquids should be refrigerated as many can lose strength if stored at room temperature.
• Most antibiotics for young children can be taken with food but be aware of tetracycline which should not be taken with milk products and not used for children under age nine.
• Most asthma inhalers come with 200 puffs per vial. An inhaler that floats is a good sign that it's empty, but keeping track of the number of puffs used is most accurate.
• To measure medicine accurately use a marked medication cup, dropper or spoon. An ordinary teaspoon is not accurate.
• Medication should be in the original, child-proof container. Parents can ask the pharmacy to divide the medications into two containers to avoid taking medication home from school each day.
• Be sure children take medications for as long as and exactly as prescribed. This is especially true with antibiotics.
Medication Permission Forms
For each medication a child is using, schools and child care centers must ask the parent to fill out and sign a form before the child is dropped off for care. Design your form with the following in mind:
• Name, address and phone number of the child's
• The name of the medication
• What the medication is for
• When to use the medication (when symptoms are
displayed or at set times of day or for emergency)
how to use the medication (pill, liquid, inhaler, full
strength or diluted)
•Special considerations (take with or without
food/liquid or milk products)
• Dosage or amount of medication
• How soon the medication should take effect
• How the medication should be stored
• Possible side effects
• Life expectancy of medication (expiration date or
knowing when a container is empty, such as an asthma
For medications taken on a long-term basis, schools and child care centers should know when to inform parents when medicines are low. A routine prescription refill can take as long as a week.
Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.