Half a million times a year, a parent calls a poison control center because a young child got into medicine or got the wrong dose? That’s a phone call every minute of every day.
Sixty-seven times each year, or every eight minutes, a child ages four and under goes to the emergency department for medicine poisoning. This is a growing problem - a 30 percent increase over the past 10 years.
Why is this happening? There are a lot of medicines in the home today, which is great because they’re helping us feel better. Safe Kids Worldwide recently researched what was causing this disconnect to understand what could be done to fix this problem.
Here are a few simple precautions for parents:
- Put medicines up and away and out of sight. Most parents store medicine up and away but might not always think about their own medicine. In 86% of serious cases seen in emergency rooms, the child got into medicine belonging to an adult. Look around your home and other places your child spends time to make sure all medicine is out of reach.
- Consider products you might not think about as medicines. We don’t always think about products which may not seem like medicine, but actually are. Diaper rash remedies are the number two most common products that cause parents to call poison control centers. Look around your home for products that may cause harm to a child, like eye drops, vitamins and diaper rash remedies. Even if you are tempted to keep it handy, put medicine out of reach after every use.
- Be alert to visitors’ medicine. Well-meaning visitors may not be thinking about medicines they brought into a home in their belongings. In 43 percent of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a relative, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent. Offer to put purses, bags and coats up high and out of sight to protect visitors’ property from a curious child.
- Communicate about medicine with friends or family members whose homes your child will be visiting. If that’s too awkward, scan the home to see what medicine is within reach.
- Keep the Poison Control Center number handy: 1-800-222-1222. Save this number on your home and cell phones and post it in where it can be seen.
- Only use the dosing device that comes with medicine.
- Check a medicine's active ingredients and make sure you aren’t giving multiple doses of the same active ingredient.
- Get unused or expired medicines out of your house. It’s important to dispose of medicine properly. Many communities have medicine take-back programs. To dispose of medicine yourself, put it into a sealable plastic bag. If the medicine is a solid, such as a pill or liquid capsule, add water to dissolve it. Then add kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds to the plastic bag. You can add anything that mixes with the medicine to make it less appealing for children or pets.
Courtesy of Diana Starace, Safe Kids Middlesex County coordinator and injury prevention coordinator at the Level I Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. For more information about poison prevention, contact Safe Kids Safe Kids Middlesex County at (732) 418-8026 or visit www.safekids.org.