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How to Prevent Medication Errors at School


Your child’s doctor should provide you with the following information to be given to the school staff who administer medications:

  • When the medicine was ordered
  • Name of child
  • Why the child is on the medication
  • Name of medication
  • Dosage
  • Time it should be given
  • What route it should be given (oral, nasal, inhaled, injected, etc.)
  • Date to discontinue if applicable
  • Possible side effects
  • Any special instructions such as “take with food”
  • If the medication can be self-administered
  • If the medication is given “as needed” there should be specific instructions such as “take for headache every 4 hours as needed”


Approximately 6% of all elementary and high school students receive medication while in school for conditions such as asthma, epilepsy, depression, diabetes, autism, allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), among others. Even if a student does not have one of these chronic conditions, many students need over-the-counter (OTC) medicines (such as pain relievers) from time to time. In fact, providing medications to students is one of the most common health related activities performed in a school. This may or may not be done by a school nurse – medications are sometimes distributed by teachers, secretaries, or health aides.

The Missouri Poison Center is dedicated to reducing medicine errors and mistakes and wants to share some helpful tips to make your student’s year a success.


Ask your pharmacist to fill the prescription into two medicine bottles, each with its own label. Then one can be kept at home and one can be kept at the school. Only a limited supply should be brought at any one time.

An adult should transport and hand off the medication to the correct school personnel. The medication needs to be in the original labeled container.

Read and understand your school’s policy for students having and administering their own medication at school. There are certain conditions that allow students to self-carry their own medications, for example, immediate access to emergency medication such as an inhaler or epi-pen. Make sure your child is taught the proper way to dose and administer it.

All prescription and over-the-counter medications given in school need written permission from the child’s doctor and parental consent.


Many students can be away from school for educational outings and field trips. It is important to check with your school on the medication policy surrounding these events. Parents can assist in this by asking their child’s doctor if the medication can be given at an alternate time or delayed. If an emergency medication is needed for the child, make sure that the medication is available to the child and can be given when needed.


Occasionally medicine mistakes can occur in school or in the home. If this occurs, it is best not to panic. Parents, nurses, teachers and school staff can call the Poison Help line to receive free, fast, and confidential poison information by calling one of our specially trained nurses and pharmacists at: 1-800-222-1222.


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