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Emergency Asthma Inhalers in Schools

23/03/2015

What is the guidance on the use of emergency asthma inhalers in school?

Guidance from the Department of Health changed on 1st October 2014, it now means schools are able to buy and use emergency Salbutamol asthma inhalers without having a prescription, these are only for use in emergencies. Schools can now store emergency asthma inhalers for communal use as well as continuing to store inhalers on behalf of individual children.

Can schools use emergency Salbutamol inhalers with all children in school?

No. Emergency Inhalers can only be used by schools on children who have been previously prescribed with an inhaler or who have asthma diagnosed. The schools emergency Salbutamol inhaler can be used when the child is suffering from an asthma attack and their own inhaler is either not available, broken or empty. Written parental consent to use an emergency Salbutamol inhaler must be gained by the school and kept on file before a communal emergency Salbutamol inhaler is used.

Is it a legal requirement for schools to provide emergency inhalers?

No. This is Department of Health guidance that applies to both primary and senior schools but it is not required by regulation. Head Teachers hold discretionary power to use and store emergency Salbutamol inhalers.

What are the risks of using emergency Salbutamol inhalers?

The greatest risk in using the emergency inhaler is that it is provided to a child when they are simply out of breath rather than suffering from an asthma attack. Salbutamol is a relatively safe medicine, however like all medicines there can be some side effects. Side effects can include feeling shaky, trembling and an increased heart rate. All responsible staff should be provided with appropriate training in order to mitigate risk.

Are there any procedures that schools should follow when using and storing emergency Salbutamol inhalers?

Yes:
  • Assign responsible staff to ensure correct procedures are followed. Ensure training in recognising and treating an asthma attack is given
  • Records of children who have an asthma diagnosis or have been prescribed their own inhaler must be kept
  • Parental consent for the use of emergency inhalers must be obtained
  • Emergency inhalers must only be used in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines
  • A log must be kept after every use of an emergency inhaler
  • Only use inhalers with single-use spacer units
  • Maintain hygiene levels
  • Ensure parent/guardians are communicated with after every use of an emergency inhaler
  • Complete monthly checks and service inhalers in accordance with manufacturer's instructions
  • Store emergency inhalers in a safe and secure location
  • Ensure emergency inhalers do not pass their expiry date
  • When empty or out of date, dispose of emergency inhalers in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines

Letter of Authority

Schools must complete a Letter of Authority when ordering emergency Salbutamol inhalers, either on their own or part of a kit.
The Letter of Authority must be on school letterhead paper and signed by the head teacher/principal. Products can then be released without a prescription. Download a sample Letter of Authority.

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