Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. It causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. An individual diagnosed with asthma may need quick-relief prescription medication to treat asthmatic symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007, asthma was the underlying cause of death for 10 children in Ohio and contributed to approximately 200 hospitalizations for middle and high school-aged students across the state.

Current law does not allow health care professionals to obtain an inhaler for non-patient-specific use or use a child’s inhaler for instances where another child may be suffering from asthma symptoms and gasping for breath.

These limitations in Ohio law are the motivation behind Substitute House Bill 39, which will permit schools and camps across Ohio to procure asthma inhalers, and other devices that attach to inhalers, for use in certain emergency situations.

Substitute House Bill 39 was signed by Governor John Kasich on November 1, 2015. Beginning in February of 2016, a board of education, a governing authority of a chartered or nonchartered nonpublic school, a community school or a STEM school with the approval of its governing authority, a college-preparatory boarding school, a residential camp, and a child day camp each are authorized to procure inhalers for use in emergency situations.

The new law requires that a school or camp that chooses to procure and possess asthma inhalers must adopt an inhaler policy overseeing their maintenance and use. Before adopting a policy, a school or camp must consult with a licensed health professional who is authorized to prescribe drugs, and the policy must include a prescriber-issued protocol that specifies a definitive order for inhalers, including dosage, number of times that each inhaler may be used before disposal and the methods of disposal. The policy also must do all of the following:

  • Identify the locations in which an inhaler must be stored.
  • Specify the conditions under which an inhaler must be stored, replaced and disposed.
  • Specify the employees and contractors (other than a school nurse or athletic trainer) who may access and use an inhaler to provide a dosage.
  • Identify the emergency situation, including when an individual exhibits symptoms of asthma, in which an inhaler may be accessed and used.
  • Specify that assistance from an emergency medical service provider must be requested immediately after an employee, other than a nurse or athletic trainer, uses an inhaler.
  • Specify the individuals, in addition to students, school employees and school visitors, to whom a dosage may be administered.

The law will grant qualified immunity from civil liability for damages allegedly arising from maintenance, access or use of an inhaler under the law.