By Beverly Hopps, Health Educator, Safe Kids WNC/Mission Children’s Hospital
Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning. In 2017, 52,000 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.
Little ones are curious! That in mind, it’s important to take precautions to help prevent these poisonings.
Here are some tips and things to keep in mind for your home and surroundings:
- Store and lock all medicines and vitamins in cabinets out of the reach and sight of children.
- Consider 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.
Did you know?
- It is estimated that in 38 percent of emergency room visits involving a medicine poisoning, the medicine belonged to a grandparent. Talk to grandparents about being extra mindful with medicine or pillboxes when children are around.
- In 49 percent of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine a child got into belonged to a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. Be alert to visitors’ medicine. Guests in your home may not be thinking about the medicine they brought with them in their belongings – offer to put purses, bags and coats out of reach of children to protect their property from a curious child.
- Seventy-percent of people 12 and older who abuse prescription drugs get them from family and friends. Prevent children from abusing your medication. In addition to accidental poisoning, there is a trend where teens share stolen prescription drugs at “pharm parties.” 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.