Comfort Treatments

Department of Human Services
Division of Developmental Disabilities
Information Bulletin

Comfort Treatments
May, 2013


The Division of Developmental Disabilities is providing an interpretation of Administrative Rule 116 related to the use of substances referred to as comfort treatments that are not within the jurisdiction of Administrative Rule 116.

Background and Explanation

Safe administration of medications in the community is a primary aim of Administrative Rule 116. However, not all substances provided to individuals are medications. These non-medication substances are non-prescribed comfort treatments and include, but are not limited to, such over-the-counter substances as skin care lotion, lip balm, sunscreen, mouthwash, non- medicated foot powder and cough drops.

Individuals with developmental disabilities frequently have diagnoses that require a physician or other person licensed to prescribe medications in Illinois to prescribe substances that initially do not appear to be medications. However, when prescribed by a physician or other properly licensed person, these substances become medications and fall under the regulation of Administrative Rule 116.

As an example, sunscreen is not considered a medication until there is an order by a physician or other properly licensed person. It is a comfort treatment and need not meet Rule 116 requirements. However, some medications increase an individual's skin sensitivity to sunlight, thus increasing the chance for sunburn. A physician or other properly licensed person may prescribe sunscreen for that individual when sun exposure will occur. Because sunscreen has been prescribed, it is considered a medication and all requirements of Rule 116 must be followed.

Process and Procedure

Substances such as over-the-counter cough syrups, laxatives, analgesics and patent or proprietary substances referred to in Administrative Rule 116.50 e) cannot be considered comfort treatments and cannot be administered without an order from a physician or other person licensed to prescribe medications in Illinois.

To be considered a comfort treatment, ALL of the following must be met:

  • The substance cannot have been ordered by a physician or other person licensed to prescribe medications in Illinois.
  • The substance must be regularly available without prescription at a commercial pharmacy, although it need not be purchased there.
  • The substance cannot be prohibited by an individual's behavior, condition or disease(s).
  • Label directions must be followed.

The individual's health care provider should be consulted if there are any questions concerning the comfort measure.