Why the Rules on Over-the-Counter Medication Need a Change


Mary Clare Voreis, Guest Contributor

It’s 10am, I’m sitting in physics, and Mr. Sweeney is going through acceleration and velocity. My head is pounding. The information is going in one ear and out the other. I wish I could bring Advil to school. My pediatrician did not sign the waiver for me to have Advil, and I’m not allowed to leave school. Meanwhile, the nurse gives me water and sends me back to class. If over the counter medication was available with a parent’s permission alone, the problem would be solved. 

The argument spans from where the line should be drawn for pain. Some people believe pain is meant to be pushed through and does not need medication for treatment. However, students cannot function properly when they are in pain; critical need is not where the line should be drawn. In the Kane County Medication Authorization Form, The Public Act 87-790 states that medication should be discouraged and only administered when a student is in a critical state. The Slate Group has shared that GW Hospital defines critical condition as “uncertain prognosis, vital signs are unstable or abnormal, there are major complications, and death may be imminent.” Advil and other over the counter medication help relieve minor pain, allowing function of the body. It would make sense that suffering through minor pain is not necessary. When I have a headache in class, I am not in critical condition; I am not near death or having serious complications, but headaches affect learning capabilities. The head pounding and sensitivity that everyone has experienced, makes it difficult to pay attention and grasp information. If that pain can be solved with a minor over the counter medication, then that medication should be available without needing a doctor’s signature.

Throughout high school, all students gain rights year by year, and many are considered legal adults by the end. They should be given the right to receive over the counter medication because they are becoming adults and becoming self-sufficient. According to Illinois State Law, at the age of sixteen, a person can give consent, drive a motor vehicle, and register to be a blood donor. Any consumer that is fourteen can legally buy over the counter medication. By senior year, students age to become legal adults, serve the country, as well as vote for the country’s leaders. Many times throughout high school, I have purchased Advil from Walgreens. Many of my friends will regularly get cough drops in the winter season. The school nurses cannot give cough drops without a note from a legal physician. As a student with many rights, and the ability to purchase these products independently, these rights in school should also come along. 

Changing the Public Act 096-1485 in Kane County is how change is made. Petitioning to local representatives and writing to local congressman is the solution to the problem. Currently in Kane County, a student needs a parent consent and a doctor’s approval note to be given over the counter medication in school. A doctor’s note should no longer be in the public act: a family should be able to decide about over the counter medication. A doctor is not involved when someone purchases over the counter medication from Walgreens, so they do not need to be in a school setting. The local officers need to then consider altering the standing law for the benefit of the independent student. Some people may say that schools should not take on the legal responsibility and liability to provide over the counter medications to students. In order to solve that problem, students should be able to self-carry, or parents and students can sign a waiver to waive school’s responsibility when providing over-the-counter medications. 

Over the counter medication is important for functioning through pain, medication can be the difference between staying to learn and giving up. Critical pain is not where the line should be drawn, all teachers and parents want students to learn at peak performance. The extra effort of administration and family is not needed when the solution promotes learning. Over the counter medication allows a student to stay in class and grasp the information they would miss out on. High school students also gain rights and responsibility, and personal treatment of medication is an important responsibility that students should learn to have. Over the counter medication is important and helpful and should be more readily available without needing a doctor’s consent. 



The Slate Group. (2001, July 17). What Does “Critical Condition” Mean? Retrieved from https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2001/07/what-does-critical-condition-mean.html.

Illinois State Law. (2019).

Geneva. (2019). Medical Authorization.