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A Safe 'Back to School'

August 24, 2006
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It's that time again: Time to start preparing for back to school.

But beyond pens and pencils, notebooks and maybe a new backpack, emergency physicians are urging parents to prepare for potential medical emergencies to ensure a safe school year for their children.

"Being prepared is key for so many things, and this goes for medical emergencies as well," said Dr. Frederick Blum, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Your child is in a much better position to receive prompt medical attention if emergency personnel do not have to take time to get parental consent, track down medical records or investigate immunization histories."

Many schools include medical forms in the enrollment process, but it is a good idea for parents to make sure their children's schools have their kids' most recent medical information. ACEP offers forms to help you with this process (www. acep.org/webportal/Patients Consumers/MedicalForms/), as well as suggests the following:

· Complete a consent-to-treat form. Then give copies to the school or day-care provider for them to keep in your child's record and to take with them if your child goes to the hospital emergency room. It's also a good idea to give copies to family members, friends or babysitters who may watch your child.

Your child will always receive lifesaving care in an emergency room, but the form gives a physician permission to treat your child for less serious medical problems when he or she is in someone else's care. Caregivers should make sure to bring the form with them if they take your child to the emergency room.

· Organize your children's medical history records and update emergency medical contact information. Provide a copy of this information to your child's school or day-care provider with instructions to take it with them to the emergency room if your child is sick or injured. Phone numbers change often; make sure your child's records include updated emergency contact information.

"Families often develop a more relaxed daily routine in the summertime, and it pays to remind children of some basic safety information once school starts," said Blum. "When medical emergencies happen, it is much easier to follow a plan than it is to try and come up with a plan when people are emotional and someone is hurt."

· Review and do a dry run of your child's route to school. Explain any potential hazards along the way. This is also a great time to discuss safety rules for going to and from school.

· Make sure your children know how to use the phone properly for help. Post emergency contact numbers next to every telephone in your home. Have young children practice reciting the information they'll be asked for if they do call 911: name, address and a description of the problem.

· Develop a family emergency plan in case something happens on the way to -- or while attending -- school. Be aware of any emergency plans and evacuation plans your children's schools may have established.

For a free brochure on preparing for medical emergencies involving children, which contains a useful list of important emergency telephone numbers and a consent-to-treat form, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to "When Your Child Has an Emergency," ACEP, 2121 K St., NW, Suite 325, Washington, D.C. 20037.

To get the brochure online, visit: www.acep.org, and click on "patients and consumers," and then "pediatrics."


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