Horry County Schools tweaks over-the-counter drug policy

vgrooms@thesunnews.comAugust 19, 2012 

Parents sending children back to school Wednesday in Horry County will have to send over-the-counter medications with them if they want their child to take them.

Nurses in Horry County Schools will no longer have access to OTC medications unless parents provide those items that their children may need during the school day, as well as more detailed instruction on how they should be administered.

The school district is changing its policy for OTC drugs – nonprescription items such as Tums, Tylenol and Neosporin – based on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ school nursing policy statement, as well as S.C. laws regarding school nursing procedures. Tammy Trulove, HCS director for health and safety services, said the changes are not radical. They already were implemented in several large counties, such as Greenville and Oconee, earlier this year and are continuing to be made statewide.

The change does not affect schools in the Georgetown County School District, where nurses do not have medications in their offices to dispense, said Ray White, public information officer for Georgetown schools.

In Horry, schools previously kept OTC medications in stock, along with signed parent/guardian permission slips that allowed administration of nonprescription medication to their children when needed. Trulove said a lot of parents did not sign the form, but for those who did, their child could be given an OTC medication if needed, and a call would be made to inform the parent. Students are not allowed to carry medicines or bring them to school; they must be given by a parent to an administrator or nurse.

Under the new system, parents who want their child to be able to receive OTC medications must bring those medications in the original packaging, labeled with their child’s name, to the school nurse and sign a new permission slip. For parents who have more than one child in the same school, they can all use the same bottle, but a slip must be filled out for each child.

Trulove said the new permission slip will be more detailed, requiring the parent to list the reasons they would want that medication to be administered, such as for headaches or minor aches and pains. As before, OTC medications will only be given to a child according to the manufacturer’s directions, and parents will still be called if their child requires attention.

“Maybe a student comes in every day for Tylenol,” Trulove said. “We want you to be aware of how many times he’s getting Tylenol, and in doing that, decide if there is something else we need to look at. This is just another way for parents to be more informed about the health and safety of their child.”

Each district school has its own nurse – most of them registered nurses, with some licensed practical nurses – unlike other districts that may have one nurse to cover several schools or that train teachers to do what is needed, Trulove said. Duties include dispensing prescription medications to students throughout the day, as well as non-urgent care needs. She said with a nurse in each school, many children who have special needs – whether they have a pacemaker or need oxygen or special procedures – are able to attend class because they have someone who can assist and monitor them, as well as alleviate parent fears.

The high schools also have athletic trainers, who are recognized healthcare professionals, and they were included in the district’s initial policy notification, although that information has been amended. Daryl Brown, HCS executive director of student affairs, said trainers are going to be operating under normal procedures, pending a district review of the policy.

John Gardner, HCS executive director for accounting services, said the policy change will not make a huge impact on district costs, as the OTC medications were paid for through individual school budgets. He said the district does, however, spend about $10,000 a year to keep emergency medications, such as epinephrine or Benadryl, on hand, in addition to emergency items such as defibrillators, which Trulove said makes the district unique.

“[The policy change] does not affect our emergency protocols,” Trulove said. “Many states don’t provide epinephrine and Benadryl, but this district feels like it’s important to the health and safety of these children. Your child may have never reacted to peanuts, and today they have a life-threatening reaction. By protocol with our physician, we can go ahead and treat this child as an emergency, based on the fact that we’ve assessed them and have the medication to treat them. While 911 is on the way, we can act immediately.”

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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