Protecting Your Child from Accidental Overdoses

You love your children and grandchildren, and would do anything to protect them. But for people with numerous prescriptions in the household, your home might be more dangerous than you think.

According to SafeKids.org, a global network of organizations aiming to prevent accidental childhood injury, more than 64,000 children were treated in an emergency room for medicine poisoning in 2012. And in three out of four of these cases, the medicine belonged to a parent or grandparent.

It is easy to forget about putting your medications out of reach, but practicing this safe habit may save your child’s life. Terry Kirkham, MSN, RN, CEN, Manager for Pediatric Trauma, Injury Prevention, and Community Outreach at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, provides advice on keeping medicine secure in your home.

“The older population tends to put their medication in daily easy open containers. This practice has them removing the medicine from the child resistant containers,” says Kirkham. “It is best to keep medication in the packaging it came in. It is child resistant, but not child proof, so keep that in mind.”

Additionally, medications are often carried around in a purse or bag, which is easily accessible for kids. “Grandma’s purse is considered the least safe,” Kirkham explains.

Calling the Poison Control Hotline

If you suspect a child has gotten into your medication, please call the Poison Control hotline: 1-800-222-1222. “Know the exact name and dosage of medication if possible,” Kirkham advises. “Every parent and grandparent should have the Poison Control number programmed into their phone. It is a national number, so no matter where they are, it’ll dial into the closest poison control center,” says Kirkham.

But how helpful is the Poison Control hotline? In 2013, poison control centers answered more than 1.34 million calls with almost half of those calls related to medicine.

For children in the 419 area code, the top three poisons accessed include:

  1. Cosmetic and personal care products
  2. Household cleaning substances
  3. Analgesics (such as Tylenol and Motrin)

<<Related: Is Your Child Safe From Household Poisons?>>

Common Causes of Overdose

In 2014, 52% of calls to Ohio’s Poison Control were because of pharmaceutical substances and 48% from non-pharmaceuticals. “Diaper rash ointments and eye drops are things that may not be considered poisons that may be just as detrimental,” Kirkham says.

Safe Kids found that the percent of 15-19 year olds who have serious outcomes from medicine poisoning is six times greater than 1-4 year olds. “This is because parents trust teens more to self-medicate themselves, so they are more likely to forget to take it and may double up on medications,” explains Kirkham. “Adults should model responsible medication behavior.”

Want to learn more about poison prevention? The Injury Prevention and Community Outreach Department of ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital offers a class called Safety for Your Baby (call 419-291-5993 to register). You can also learn more about Safe Kids at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital at their website or Facebook page

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