The 5 Most Common School Emergencies

School is in session, and medical emergencies in school are common – 10% to 15% of students have special medical needs or a chronic health issue—yet many schools are unprepared to manage them. 


It’s important to reach out to local schools to educate them about common emergencies. It’s equally important to brush up on your emergency preparedness skills. Here are the most common school medical emergencies.


Allergic Reactions

Even as schools move toward allergy-safe environments, anaphylaxis is impossible to completely prevent. Bee stings, peanuts, shellfish, milk, and eggs are the leading causes of anaphylactic reactions. Students with a known allergy should have an EpiPen at school. Students recently exposed to a sting or bite should be closely monitored. Moreover, all educators must know that allergies can kill and that a rash, difficulty breathing, or changes in behavior could signal a dangerous reaction. 


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Rambunctious playground games, gym class, and misguided climbing attempts are prime culprits in falls at school. Almost 300,000 children visit emergency rooms with head injuries each year.


Falls can also lead to strains, sprains, and broken bones. It’s difficult for a layperson to assess whether a bump on the head is serious or minor, so any fall that injures the head or causes bone or muscle pain warrants further investigation. Schools must teach educators to promptly intervene and call 911 any time a child injures their head.



Some children have their first epileptic seizure at school. Students who suffer from febrile seizures may also experience seizures in the classroom. A seizure can lead to falls, head injuries, and even choking if the student isn’t properly monitored. Students with seizure disorders must have appropriate support and monitoring from educators.


Schools must also educate staff about strategies for keeping students safe during and after a seizure. Most importantly, a seizure must always be treated as an emergency, even if the student has a history of prior seizures.


Suspected Poisoning

Kids do things that, to adults, seem shockingly ill-informed. Most of us know a kid who ate part of a frog during a high school dissection or who inhaled paint fumes in the bathroom. Today’s kids are no different. Attempts to impress friends can cause them to do misguided things that put them at risk of poisoning. Careless behavior, such as not washing hands or mixing the wrong chemicals, is also a major source of danger. 


Schools must know which chemicals are dangerous and carefully monitor them to ensure students don’t gain access. Any time a student is suspected of consuming a dangerous substance, schools must immediately call 911 and poison control. 


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Choking is the fourth leading cause of death among children, especially kids under 5 years old. Schools that educate the youngest children must be cautious. That includes avoiding foods that are choking hazards, such as candy and popcorn, and never allowing students access to small objects.


Even among older children, choking is common. Every school should post details on the Heimlich maneuver and consider offering CPR and choking intervention classes. Most importantly, choking must always be treated as a medical emergency—not a joke, and certainly not something a child is doing to get attention.


Your Role in School Emergency Management

EMS providers are more than just first responders; they’re also a primary source of information on emergency prevention. Consider partnering with your local school district to offer a seminar on emergency response or inviting parents to a monthly seminar at your agency headquarters. It’s a great way to get involved in the community, and you may even save some lives.


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Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in October, 2018. It has been re-published with additional up to date content.


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