Ryan’s Law, which aims to protect students with asthma by allowing them to carry their medications, is now a reality in the province of Ontario.
The law is named for Ryan Gibbons, a 12-year-old boy from the London-area of Ontario, who died from a severe asthma attack that began at school recess in October, 2012. All 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 that this new law will lessen the likelihood of a child dying from an asthma exacerbation while in an Ontario school,” he said.
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, which was introduced as a private member’s bill by member of provincial parliament Jeff Yurek, 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,
• and 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, since 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.