Ryan’s Law Lets Kids With Asthma Carry Inhalers at School

in Asthma
Published: May 5, 2015
Ryans LawRyan Gibbons

Ryan’s Law, which allows students with asthma to carry their medications, has become a reality in the Canadian province of Ontario.

The law is named for 12-year-old Ryan Gibbons. The boy from the London-area of Ontario died from a severe asthma attack that began at recess in October 2012. All provincial political parties voted unanimously to pass the law.

The Asthma Society of Canada and the Canadian Lung Association both praised the law, which was seen as overdue. “It is essential that children with asthma have ready access to potentially life-saving asthma medications while at school,” said Dr. Robert Oliphant, president and CEO of the Asthma Society.

“There is no doubt this new law will lessen the likelihood of a child dying from an asthma exacerbation at an Ontario school,” he said.

Ryan’s Law: End to Locked Up Inhalers

On the day of his recess asthma attack, Ryan did not have his inhaler with him, since it was kept locked in the principal’s office. Sandra Gibbons, his mother, has said Ryan was trying to head to the office. But he lost consciousness before reaching the inhaler.

Gibbons thanked everyone who supported the law, which she’s been advocating for since her son’s death. “It has been a long road to get here. But it is a feeling of relief to know that all schools will have standardized asthma policies across the province,” she said.

Ryan’s Law requires Ontario school boards to:
– Establish standardized asthma policies (which must include strategies to reduce risk of exposure to asthma triggers).
– Provide regular training for staff on recognizing and managing asthma symptoms.
– Allow students to carry their own asthma medication with doctor and parental approval.

The Asthma Society noted that a 2011 study found school board policies on asthma medications were inconsistent across Canada, with some boards having no policies or conflicting policies with respect to asthma medications.

School boards have tended to lock medications up for safekeeping, but this is contrary to recommended asthma management. That’s because reliever medication needs to be used at the first sign of a flare-up. As in Ryan’s case, delay can lead to a serious, even fatal, attack.

“When Ryan passed away, it was like losing everything that I lived for,” Gibbons told Allergic Living. “My hopes with the legislation is to ensure children have their inhalers on their person at all times with a backup in a location that is easily accessible,” Gibbons said.

Related Reading:
Schools and Locked Up Epinephrine: a Dangerous Situation