For some families, back to school means new clothes and school supply shopping. But if your child has asthma, food allergies or any condition that requires medication in school, you’ll have to add something else to the list: medical forms. You may need the Medication Administration Form (MAF), Asthma Action Plan, or a Section 504 form to ensure your child has a safe school experience

The MAF allows students to receive the medications they need at school. The Asthma Action Plan is developed with your doctor to help control your child’s asthma. But too few families have these forms. According to the New York City Department of Health, in 2009, only 65% of children who should have a form on file actually did. Food allergies can be fatal, as in the case of a Canadian school girl who died at school because her condition was not properly recognized by school officials.

A child with asthma can have a rescue inhaler in school only if the school has a MAF. The same goes for a child with food allergies. Students may carry an EPI pen or have the school nurse store store it only if there is a MAF on file. If a MAF is not on file, a parent may be called to pick up the child, or the school may send the child to the nearest hospital emergency room.

I know from personal experience how important this is. My two sons are asthmatic and have severe allergies to dairy products. Both of my boys have MAFs and Asthma Action Plans on file which have been an essential part of their schooling. Each has had Benadryl administered at school and luckily, small incidents did not turn into big one because the school had the proper forms.

The Section 504 form confirms the right of your child to receive reasonable and necessary accommodations required by medical, behavioral, physical or learning disabilities. These accommodations may include the use of a refrigerator, a health para-professional or even extra time for test-taking. Every school has a Section 504 coordinator. Ask the school nurse or the parent coordinator who is responsible. The 504 and MAF must be completed by the child’s healthcare provider and should clearly explain your child’s needs.

You can find the MAF and the Asthma Action Plan on the Department of Education’s website. Print them out and have your provider complete them. You must sign the back and submit the forms to the school nurse along with any needed medications or equipment.Remember: No medication can be administered in school until the form is submitted. You’ll need to get a new MAF every year.

With those in hand, your child is better prepared for a safe school year.