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Emergency asthma salbutamol inhaler in schools for students

If a school keeps a salbutamol inhaler on the premises for use in emergencies, the inhaler must only be used by pupils who have previously been diagnosed with asthma and as a result been prescribed a reliever inhaler, or those who have been prescribed reliever inhalers by medical professionals. In addition, written consent for the use of this emergency inhaler must have been obtained from a child’s parents. A record of this should be kept in the pupil’s individual healthcare plan.

It is possible that a child has been prescribed an inhaler containing reliever medication other than salbutamol (i.e. terbutaline). However, the child should still use the salbutamol inhaler if their own is not accessible, as it can still relieve the symptoms of asthma, and in extreme cases save a child’s life.

Procedures should be in place to ensure that a school is aware of any children with additional health needs, so that an asthma register can be compiled using this information. It’s possible that some schools already have this in place as part of their medical conditions or asthma policies. The register is particularly important within larger schools and also secondary schools, where there may be many pupils with asthma, therefore making it difficult for staff members to know who these children are (in primary schools it’s often easier, as a teacher is usually responsible for a single class for the whole school year). Therefore it’s important that staff can access the asthma register easily, in order to quickly check if a pupil is recorded as suffering from asthma, and to ensure that consent has been given for the school to administer an emergency inhaler. A school may also decide to include a photograph of each child within the register to enable visual checks; however parental consent must be sought for this.

School Policy

A school’s asthma policy should ensure that when an emergency inhaler is needed, members of staff check the register to confirm that the child’s parents have authorised its use. There needs to be a flexible and balanced approach when checking the register.

Parental Consent

It’s important that a school obtains consent from a child’s parents to confirm that they can use the salbutamol inhaler in the event of an emergency, and there are different options as to when this consent could be sought. It may be that a school seeks consent at the same time as contacting parents about flu vaccinations or other injections. Another option is during the development of a pupil’s individual healthcare plan, or at the same time as seeking consent for the administration or supervising the administration of a pupil’s own inhaler as part of the school’s medical conditions or asthma policies.

If schools ensure a record of parental consent is kept within the asthma register, it will allow staff to quickly confirm that in an emergency, a child is able to use the inhaler. It’s important that consent is updated on a regular basis (annually is considered best practice) to take into account any changes to a pupil’s condition.