Each year, nearly 500,000 calls to the Poison Control Center are about children ingesting medicines that belong predominately to parents and grandparents.
Safe Kids Worldwide shares the following tips about keeping your child safe from medicines that could have serious consequences for them.
Store Medicines Safely
- Put all medicines up and away and out of sight including your own. Make sure that all medicines and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. In 3 out of 4 emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent.
- Consider places where kids get into medicine. Kids get into medication in all sorts of places, like in purses and nightstands. In 67% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine was left within reach of a child, such as in a purse, on a counter or dresser, or on the ground. Place purses and bags in high locations, and avoid leaving medicines on a nightstand or dresser.
- Consider products you might not think about as medicines. Most parents store medicine up and away – or at least the products they consider to be medicine. They may not think about products such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins or eye drops as medicine, but they actually are and need to be stored safely.
- Close your medicine caps tightly after every use. Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, if you’re able to. If pill boxes or non-child resistant caps are the only option, it’s even more important to store these containers up high and out of sight when caring for kids. And remember, child-resistant does not mean child-proof, and some children will still be able to get into medicine given enough time and persistence.
- Be alert to visitors’ medicine. Guests in your home may not be thinking about the medicine they brought with them in their belongings. In 43% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine a child got into belonged to a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. When you have guests in your home, offer to put purses, bags and coats out of reach of children to protect their property from a curious child.
- Be alert to medicine in places your child visits. You know to store medicine safely in your home, but do you ever think about medicine safety when your child isn’t at home? Asking people your child visits to put their medicines in a safe place works for some parents, but it may feel socially awkward to others. Another option is to take a look around to see if any medicines are stored within reach and deal with any risks in sight.
- Even if you are tempted to keep it handy, put medicine out of reach after every use. When you need to give another dose in just a few hours, it may be tempting to keep medicine close at hand. But accidents can happen fast, and it only takes a few seconds for children to get into medicine that could make them very sick. Put medicine up and away after every use. And if you need a reminder, set an alarm on your watch or cell phone, or write yourself a note.
Give Medicines Safely
- Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Proper dosing is important, particularly for young children. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon and tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device.
- Keep all medicines in their original packages and containers.
- Take the time to read the label and follow the directions. Even if you have used the medicine before, sometimes the directions change about how much medicine to give.
- Even if your child seems really sick, don’t give more medicine than the label says. It won’t help your child feel better faster, and it may cause harm.
- Read the label and know what’s in the medicine. Take the time to read the label and follow the directions on your child’s medicine. Check the active ingredients listed on the label. Make sure you don’t give your child more than one medicine with the same active ingredient, because it puts your child at risk for an overdose.
Communicate to Caregivers
- If you are depending on someone else to give your child medicine, communicate clearly to avoid double dosing or dosing errors. More than 67,000 parents call poison control centers about dosing errors each year.
- Write clear instructions to other caregivers, including what medicine to give, when to give it and the correct dose.
Get Rid of Medicines Safely
- Clean out your medicine cabinet. Reduce the risk of kids getting into medicine by getting rid of unused or expired medicine. Many communities have a medicine take-back program. This is an easy way to get rid of your unused or expired medicines.
- To dispose of it yourself, pour the medicine into a sealable plastic bag. If the medicine is a pill, 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.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that certain medicines are so dangerous they should be flushed down the toilet.
Talk to Your Kids about Medication Safety
- Talk to your kids about medication safety. Even if their medicine tastes good, don’t compare it to candy to encourage kids to take it.
- Speak with older kids about the dangers of misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
- It is estimated that in 38 percent of ER 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.
- Don’t forget to remind other family members and visitors as well.
Put the Poison Help Number in Your Phone
- Put the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) into your home and cell phones. You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. And remember, the poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine.
- If your child has collapsed, is not breathing, or has a seizure, call 911.
- Do not make children vomit or give them anything unless directed by a professional.
You can download these tips about medicines here.