Health Manager Orientation Guide

Storage and Disposal of Medications

Medication procedures should include the safe and proper storage and disposal of medications.

Tips and Strategies for Medication Storage

  • Keep all medications in their original labeled container.
  • Set up procedures to have extra labels for over-the-counter (OTC) medications, since they may not have an individualized pharmacy label or instructions for a specific child.
  • Recommend that families ask the pharmacy for a second labeled medication to use while in the Head Start program, so families can keep medications stored in their original, labeled container at home and at the Head Start program.
  • Store medications in a medication container or bag that is clearly labeled, secured in a designated area, accessible to staff, and inaccessible to children.
  • Make sure the medication bag or container is easy to transport, so staff can easily carry medications outside, on field trips, or in an evacuation. For example, have a designated medication backpack that is stored on a hook well out of children’s reach.
  • Emergency medications, such as one for a potential life-threatening allergic reaction, may need to be stored so staff can immediately get to it and administer it (e.g., stored in a fanny pack worn by staff).
  • Also consider this when identifying the safest storage locations:
    • State, tribal, or territorial regulations for medication storage.
  • Staff ability to get the medications while still maintaining the necessary staff-child ratios.
  • Immediate access to emergency medications.
  • Availability when outdoors, considering both accessibility and weather conditions.
  • Special storage instructions (e.g., refrigeration).
  • Medications as part of the program’s emergency supplies for evacuations.
  • A secure area for families or other visitors to store purses or bags that may have medication or other items that should be inaccessible to children.

Tips and Strategies for Medication Disposal

  • Make sure staff are aware that medications should never be thrown away, flushed, or taken home by staff or another family.
  • Return to the family any medications that are no longer needed, expired, or still at the program when the enrollment ends. The family can then use the medication at home or get rid of it.
  • For medication that cannot be returned to the family, find the safest options for disposal by program staff (e.g., taking it to a local pharmacy or other designated location).