Your Medicated Child
“It’s 12:00, so can I go to the nurse for my medication?” 11-year-old Annie asks her teacher. Annie is on Ritalin, and knows that she will have a hard time concentrating through the afternoon if she skips her daily visit to the nurse’s office.

Taking medicine during the school day is a fact of life for millions of kids nationwide these days. About 13 million children in grades K-12, take medication in any two-week period, according to a study by Ann Marie McCarthy, an associate professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa. Most common are AD/HD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) medications, followed by over-the-counter and asthma medications, respectively. In another study, McCarthy found that students were taking about 200 different kinds of medicines in 2003, up from 58 found in a late 1980s study.

Medco Health Solutions, a prescription benefit manager, reported in 2004 that spending on drugs to treat behavioral problems in children had increased 77 percent from 2000 to 2003. Spending on all other pediatric drugs increased by 23 percent in that same period.

Some of these medications are powerful drugs that must be taken at exactly the right time and dosage. For example:

• Ritalin and certain other ADD (attention deficit disorder) drugs need to be taken in small doses throughout the day.

• Diabetic children must monitor their blood sugar all day and receive insulin shots as necessary.

• Children with severe allergic reactions must have epinephrine nearby in case of anaphylactic shock.

All schools should have a clear written policy on children’s medication needs and make it available to everyone: parents, children and staff. If your child needs to take medication at school, make sure that he understands the times and dosages, and provide the school with medicine in original containers. Regulations about over-the-counter drugs and whether your child is allowed to self-medicate (particularly in the case of asthma inhalers) should also be included.

– Judy Molland

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