Tips to Keep Your Child Safe at School
When an illness or emergency happens, a little preparation goes a long way
School is usually one of the safest places kids can be, according to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). But accidents, illness and emergencies do happen, and a little preparation can go a long way.
Prepare your child for whatever comes his way with this advice courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses and food allergy coalitions.
Help the school prepare for a natural disaster
Send updated emergency information to your school every year — and make sure it gets there. Schools make this easy by sending you an emergency form card to fill out. “Most parents make sure that the school can reach them in an emergency,” says Beth Mattey, MSN, RN, NCSN, president of the National Association of School Nurses and a school nurse in Wilmington, Delaware. “But I know in high school, the card may stay in a student’s book bag for much of the year.”
The form should include emergency contacts and info about prescription medications, medical problems and previous surgeries. If your school doesn’t have its own form, you can download one from the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Discuss your school’s emergency and evacuation plans with your kids. Calmly explain to your child what to expect and how you will reunite if you are separated.
Create a "safety team" and action plan for your child
If your child has severe allergies or a chronic condition that requires medication and/or training to deal with, ask for a group meeting. “Parents need to ask who is responsible for the health needs of their child,” says Mattey. Introduce yourself to the person in charge of administering medications (in the absence of a school nurse, this may be the school secretary). Ask to meet with this person, the principal and your child's teachers and playground director to discuss the situation and show them how to administer the medication (which should be brought to school in its original container). You'll feel much better knowing your "safety team" is in place.
Make sure your school or child always has the medications he
might need in an emergency.
“If you have a student with diabetes and
the school is in lockdown, we need to be sure we have their medication,” says
Develop an individualized health action plan with the school if your child has a chronic medical condition, such as asthma, allergies or diabetes. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has prepared a student asthma action card you can fill out and give to the school.
For older children, coordinate self-medication with the school. “Best practice is that the child can manage an inhaler on his own and can carry his inhaler,” says Mattey. But this depends on the child and the school’s policy. Whatever the policy, let your child know never to share medication with friends.
“We want kids to be empowered,” says Mattey. “But some kids share medicine, which can be a serious danger.” Mattey has had to call poison control more than once because students have shared their medication with friends.
Cover the basics
Teach your children basic hygiene. Regular hand washing can go a long way toward keeping kids healthy.
Get your child her vaccinations and a flu shot. Mattey recommends following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's ACIP guidelines on immunizations. “They include adolescent immunizations — like a Tdap booster, HPV, and meningitis — that parents may not be aware of if they don’t go to the pediatrician regularly for check-ups,” she says.
Keep your young athlete safe. If your child plays a school sport, ensure she has the proper protective gear and keep an eye out for injuries. “Parents should be aware of the symptoms of concussions,” warns Mattey. “We’re seeing more and more concussions now that we’re aware of it, and the brain needs time to rest in order to recover.”
Provide the school with a signed consent-to-treat form. This form allows caregivers to authorize treatment in an emergency.
Beware of bullying. Talk with your child and look for warning signs, such as a drop in grades, begging to stay home or social isolation. Introduce yourself to the school bus driver and ask him to call you if needed. Contact the school if you have any concerns.
Plan safe routes to school. If your child walks or bikes to school, make sure he crosses only at designated cross walks. If the school is within walking distance, you may also want to consider enrolling him in a "walking school bus." If he takes the bus, teach him to make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing in front of the bus and to never walk behind the bus.
Drill your digits. Help young children memorize their phone number and address. Make sure they know how to call 911 in an emergency.