By Beverly Hopps
Health Educator, Safe Kids WNC/Mission Children’s Hospital
Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning. In 2011, 67,700 children were seen in the emergency room for medicine poisoning. That’s one child every eight minutes. Almost all of these visits are because the child got into medicines during a moment alone.
To help prevent poisonings when taking care of children, follow these tips:
- Store and lock all medicines and vitamins in cabinets out of the reach and sight of children.
- Remember products that you may not think of as medicine. Even products such as diaper rash remedies and eye drops need to be stored safely out of the reach and sight of children.
- Keep children where you can see them at all times, even when you go to answer the door or telephone.
- Never leave young children alone.
- Don’t refer to medicine as candy, which may encourage children to take medicine on their own.
- Do not leave poisons on a counter or in an unlocked cabinet.
- Never carry something that can be poisonous, such as a medicine, in a purse where children may find it.
- Place safety latches on drawers or cabinets, and child-resistant caps on bottles, to keep poisons out of the hands of children.
- For older children, teach them to read labels and to always follow the instructions on the label. Talk to them about the importance of only taking medicine that is meant for them. Taking medicine that belongs to someone else or misusing medicine can cause harm.
- Clean out your medicine cabinets of all unused and expired medications, and bring them to an Operation Medicine Drop event or permanent drop box near you for proper disposal.
In addition to accidental poisoning, there is a trend where teens share stolen prescription drugs at “pharm parties.” Seventy-percent of people 12 and older who abuse prescription drugs get them from family and friends. Prevent children from abusing your medication. Inventory your medications and secure them in places your children cannot access and properly dispose of medications you no longer use or that are expired. Talk to your children and set clear rules.
Save the Poison Help number in your phone: 1-800-222-1222. It’s not just for emergencies. You can call with questions about how to take or give medicine, concerns about plants, chemicals, carbon monoxide, bites, stings and more.