Long-term health conditions at school

If your child has a long-term health condition, such as asthma or diabetes, talk to their school about how their condition will be managed during the school day.

Most children will, at some time, have short-term medical needs. For example, they may need to take a course of antibiotics or other medicine.

But some have a long-term or even lifelong illness and need medicines for the forseeable future.

Children with medical needs have the same rights of admission to schools as other children. Most attend school regularly and take part in normal activities, sometimes with support. However, staff may need to take measures to ensure that these children, and others, aren't put at risk.

Not all long-term health conditions can be managed in mainstream schools. Some will require your child to attend a school that is specially equipped.

Common long-term health conditions in schoolchildren

Common long-term conditions that mainstream schools can manage include diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and allergy.

If your child has a long-term health condition, your school may draw up an individual healthcare plan to help staff identify any necessary safety measures. This will help to protect your child and ensure that others aren't put at risk. 

How to talk to the school about your child's health condition

If your child has recently been diagnosed with a long-term condition, or you have a child with a long-term condition who is about to start school, contact your child's school to discuss how it will be managed.

Talk to your child’s GP or hospital specialist about the information you’ll need to give the school. They can also give you advice on the arrangements that the school may have to make, such as keeping medicines on site or helping to administer medicines. The information you give the school should include:

  • details of medicines your child needs to take and when they're needed
  • any side effects of the medicines
  • what constitutes an emergency
  • what to do, and not to do, in an emergency
  • special requirements, such as dietary needs, and measures that must be taken before your child is physically active
  • whether your child will need to be absent from school regularly to meet medical appointments.

Discuss with your GP or consultant how your child’s condition should be managed during the school day. For example, it may be possible to prescribe medicine for your child that can be taken before and after school, instead of in the middle of the day. If your child’s condition can be managed effectively with minimal involvement from the school, this is likely to be easier for you and the school.

What to expect from the school

Your child’s school should have policies setting out how it manages medicines and long-term medical conditions.

This policy will cover the following:

  • How medicines will be managed and administered during the school day. Any member of staff administering medicines should be fully trained.
  • How medicines will be managed and administered during school outings.
  • Who the school will contact if there's an emergency.
  • How the school will meet special needs, such as diet.
  • How the school will help your child to participate in physical activity and school trips, if needed.
  • The school should be able to agree with you on how it will manage your child’s condition during the school day. 

The school staff do not have a legal duty to administer medicines. But if staff do so, the school must ensure that they're trained appropriately.

Children with diabetes

Parents describe how they deal with having a diabetic child, including daily routines such as insulin injections, and how children can live life to the full.

Media last reviewed: 20/08/2013

Next review due: 20/08/2015

Page last reviewed: 01/12/2012

Next review due: 01/12/2014

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Tori Hunt said on 17 February 2014

Since the comment below was posted, the picture editor for NHS Choices has changed the picture referred to.

Kind regards,

Victoria Hunt
Live Well Editor
NHS Choices

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AsthResp said on 12 September 2013

An informative piece - my only concern is the message the picture of a child using a MDI (Metered dose inhaler) without a suitable spacer device, is giving. This type of inhaler is very difficult to use correctly, for adults let alone children, the co-ordination being the most problematic. National guidance (BTS/SGN) states children under 12 should use a spacer device with the MDI. As inhaler technique is paramount in ensuring the medication is deposited throughout the lungs, whichever device is used, the technique should always be checked and if unsuitable the device changed accordingly. Patient preference should be taken into account too.

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