What’s in Your Child’s Backpack

It’s that time of year again. In stores everywhere, parents are wandering around with school supply checklists in hand searching for paper, pencils and other items to fill their child’s backpack. In some instances, however, there may be more than school supplies in backpacks. A number of children take prescribed medicine for a diagnosed condition, or are taking over the counter medication. These medicines often need to be taken during the day.  In many school districts, medications, prescribed or over the counter, are not allowed to travel with the student.  However, on the rare occasion that a waiver is signed, medications may travel with the child to and/or from school. Medication in backpacks and lunchboxes, mixed in with other personal belongings, can be dangerous not only to the child for whom the medication is intended but to schoolmates as well.

While, the Indiana Poison Center would would like to remind you that young children can easily mistake pills for candy and liquid medications for soda and juice, pills and liquid medication are not the only items to be aware of; creams and ointments can also cause problems if used the wrong way. Emergency use inhalers can be lifesavers for children with asthma but at the same time can cause an increased heart rate if used inappropriately. When sending medication to school with your child, keep it in its original container to ensure that important information about how to use the medicine is available.

The Indiana Poison Center suggests the following tips to help protect your student from unintentional poisoning:

  • Find out exactly what the school’s policy is regarding bringing and administering medication to a student.
  • Take some time to directly talk to your child’s teacher and the school nurse about the medication that your child will be taking. Tell them about any expected side effects they should be aware of.
  • Keep the medication in its original container or ask the pharmacist for an extra container with the information that can be sent to school.
  • Give the teacher/nurse written information that contains the name of your child, the name of the medication and detailed instructions on how the medication should be taken to avoid any misunderstanding.  Most schools will have a form used for this specific purpose.
  • Include the number of the poison center, 1-800-222-1222, in the information you send to school.
  • Keep in mind that backpacks and "big kids' stuff" are exceptionally attractive to younger siblings. Medication found in an older child’s backpack at home may be mistaken for candy.
  • Most children are not capable of managing their own medications until they are at least 10 - 12 years old, or even older.  They may be able to manage with adult supervision, but should never be expected to remember to take pills, etc. on their own.
  • Teach children to respect medication and that it should only be taken when necessary and according to the directions on the label. 

Taking these simple precautions can help ensure that your child takes medication safely and unintentional poisoning is avoided. To learn more about poison prevention and to receive a free magnet and phone stickers, call the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, or visit the Center’s website at www.indianapoison.org. For a poisoning emergency, call the Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 where experts are standing by twenty-four hours a day to help you.

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