A recent study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, published online in the Journal of Pediatrics, cites an alarming increase in the number of children under five years of age poisoned at home by accidentally ingesting medications. Approximately 95% of those poisonings were the result of children taking medicines on their own. As a result, pediatric poisoning cases resulting in visits to emergency rooms have dramatically increased. Dr. Randall Bond, co-author of the study, said that “the problem of pediatric poisoning in the U.S. is getting worse, not better.”
The main cause of these incidents is carelessness. Adults put children at risk by leaving open medications within easy reach or sorted into easy-to-open pill boxes. To avoid poisoning children by allowing access to drugs, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following precautions:
- Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after use.
- Keep all chemicals and medicines locked up and out of sight.
- When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take the child or product along when answering the phone or doorbell.
- Keep items in original containers.
- Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using.
- Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every time.
- Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as “medicine,” not “candy.”
- Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically, and safely dispose of unneeded medicines when the illness for which they were prescribed is over.
Additional advice comes from Dr. Steven Marcus, Medical Director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System
- Store all medications – including prescription, over the counter, herbs, vitamins, and supplements – under lock and key.
- When people visit your home, ask about any medications they may have. Lock those away as well.
- Properly disposed of unused medicines. The current advice for disposing of medicines is to mix expired or leftover drugs with used coffee grounds or something else that would taste bad to a toddler or an animal, put them in a container with a lid, and discard in the household trash.
- Verify expiration dates and instructions administering or taking medications.
- Always store medicines and dietary supplements in the original container to lessen the possibility of taking or administering the wrong medicine, either at home or while traveling.
These precautions will sound like common sense to every pharmacist out there, but we have to remember that common sense is not always common. Let’s try to work together to get the word out…so no more kids need to learn about the joys of a stomach pump. Do you have any additional advice to add? Horror stories to share? Let us know.