Medicines Can Hurt…Use and Store Carefully

medicines

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.

Educate Grandparents

  • 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 here.

Download Tips

 

Before You Try a Weight Loss Supplement…

weightMany of us have vowed to lose weight in 2015. We all would like to find a quick fix, an easier path than dieting and exercising. We may be tempted to try one of those miracle weight loss supplements or foods. Before you do, please read what the FDA has to say about weight loss products.

Many so-called “miracle” weight loss supplements and foods (including teas and coffees) don’t live up to their claims. Worse, they can cause serious harm, say FDA regulators. The agency has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.

“When the product contains a drug or other ingredient which is not listed as an ingredient we become especially concerned about the safety of the product,” says James P. Smith, M.D., an acting deputy director in FDA’s Office of Drug Evaluation.

Tainted Products

For example, FDA has found weight loss products tainted with the prescription drug ingredient sibutramine. This ingredient was in an FDA-approved drug called Meridia, which was removed from the market in October 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes.

“We’ve also found weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients including active ingredients contained in approved seizure medications, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants,” says Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager at FDA. Most recently, FDA has found a number of products marketed as dietary supplements containing fluoxetine, the active ingredient found in Prozac, a prescription drug marketed for the treatment of depression and other conditions. Another product contained triamterene, a powerful diuretic (sometimes known as “water pills”) that can have serious side-effects and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional.

Many of these tainted products are imported, sold online, and heavily promoted on social media sites. Some can also be found on store shelves.

And if you’re about to take what you think of as “natural” dietary supplements, such as bee pollen or Garcinia cambogia, you should be aware that FDA has found some of these products also contain hidden active ingredients contained in prescription drugs.

“The only natural way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in,” says James P. Smith, M.D. That means a combination of healthful eating and physical activity.

Dietary Supplements are not FDA-Approved

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (as amended by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994), dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. It is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims made about such products are true.

But just because you see a supplement product on a store shelf does not mean it is safe, Humbert says. FDA has received numerous reports of harm associated with the use of weight loss products, including increased blood pressure, heart palpitations (a pounding or racing heart), stroke, seizure and death. When safety issues are suspected, FDA must investigate and, when warranted, take steps to have these products removed from the market.

FDA has issued over 30 public notifications and recalled 7 tainted weight loss products in 2014. The agency also has issued warning letters, seized products, and criminally prosecuted people responsible for marketing these illegal diet products. In addition, FDA maintains an online list of tainted weight-loss products.

To help people with long-term weight management, FDA has approved prescription drugs such as Belviq, Qysmia, and Contrave, but these products are intended for people at least 18 years of age who:

  • have a body mass index (BMI, a standard measure of body fat) of 30 or greater (considered obese); or
  • have a BMI of 27 or greater (considered overweight) and have at least one other weight-related health condition.

Moreover, if you are going to embark on any type of weight control campaign, you should talk to your health care professional about it first, Welch says.

Know the Warning Signs

Look for potential warning signs of tainted products, such as:

  • promises of a quick fix, for example, “lose 10 pounds in one week.”
  • use of the words “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough.”
  • products marketed in a foreign language.
  • products marketed through mass e-mails.
  • products marketed as herbal alternatives to an FDA-approved drug or as having effects similar to prescription drugs.

Advice for Consumers

Generally, if you are using or considering using any product marketed as a dietary supplement, FDA suggests that you:

  • check with your health care professional or a registered dietitian about any nutrients you may need in addition to your regular diet.
  • ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true.
  • be cautious if the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic.
  • watch out for extreme claims such as “quick and effective” or “totally safe.”
  • be skeptical about anecdotal information from personal “testimonials” about incredible benefits or results from using a product.

If you suspect a product marketed as a dietary supplement sold online may be tainted, FDA urges you to report that information online. You or your health care professional can also report an illness or injury you believe to be related to the use of a dietary supplement by calling 1-800-FDA-1088 or visiting FDA online.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Updated January 5, 2015

 

Children and Holiday Vacation

After Christmas comes holiday vacation time, a time for outdoor fun activities for children.

children outdoorsThe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following tips for keeping children safe while outdoors in the winter.

What to Wear

Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don’t forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat. The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.

When participating in activities such as ice skating, sledding, snow skiing and snowboarding, consider having your child wear a helmet.

Sun Protection

The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures. It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. It can occur more quickly in children than in adults.

As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body temperature will decline in more severe cases. If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.

Frostbite

Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.

If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot) water. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears and lips. Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to drink.

If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.

Frostbite facts from Rhode Island Hospital’s Burn Center.

Supervision

Children should be supervised while participating in all winter outdoor activities. Older children’s need for adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If older children are not with an adult, they should always at least be accompanied by a friend. Never let your child sled, skate, ski or snowboard alone.

Ice Skating

Allow children to skate only on approved surfaces. Check for signs posted by local police or recreation departments, or call your local police department to find out which areas have been approved. Advise your child to:

  • Skate in the same direction as the crowd.
  • Avoid darting across the ice.
  • Never skate alone.
  • Not chew gum or eat candy while skating.

Sledding

  • Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.
  • Keep young children separated from older children.
  • Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.
  • Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes.
  • Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated.
  • Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like trees or fences, be covered in snow not ice, not be too steep (slope of less than 30º), and end with a flat runoff.
  • Avoid sledding in crowded areas.

 Snow Skiing and Snowboarding

  • Children should be taught to ski or snowboard by a qualified instructor in a program designed for children.
  • Equipment should fit the child. Skiers should wear safety bindings that are adjusted at least every year. Snowboarders should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. Eye protection or goggles should also be used.
  • Slopes should fit the ability and experience of the skier or snowboarder.
  • Avoid crowded slopes. Avoid skiing in areas with trees and other obstacles.

 Snowmobiling

  • The AAP recommends that children under age 16 not operate snowmobiles and that children under age 6 never ride on snowmobiles.

  • Do not use a snowmobile to pull a sled or skiers.
  • Wear goggles and a safety helmet approved for use on motorized vehicles like motorcycles.
  • Travel at safe speeds.
  • Never use alcohol or other drugs before or during snowmobiling.
  • Stay on marked trails, away from roads, water, railroads and pedestrians.

Laundry Pods…A Convenience, Yet a Danger for Young Children

pods

In a recent nightly news report, Brian Williams spoke about the serious danger in using the colorful, candy like, laundry detergent pods if you have young children in your home. He cited a recent new study in the journal Pediatrics that stated these detergent pods can pose a serious poisoning risk to young children.

He went on to say that just about once an hour a child is reported to have ingested one of these colorful pods that are small enough to fit into a young child’s mouth.

Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, also reported on this serious threat in MedlinePlus. She shared that study researchers analyzed records from the National Poison Data System and found that more than 17,000 children under the age of six were exposed to laundry detergent pods from 2012 through 2013. Nearly 80 percent were exposed through ingestion, most of them one and two years of age.

Half of the children, who put the pods in their mouths, were treated at home, about a third were treated at a health care facility and released, and around 4 percent were hospitalized. While most of the young patients experienced minor injuries, more than 7 percent suffered a moderate to major medical outcome. One child died.

The researchers say since the pods have a colorful, candy-like appearance that they may attract children, especially during developmental periods when children commonly place items in their mouths. They are asking pediatricians and other health care providers to educate parents and other caregivers about the dangers of these products, as well as the importance of safe storage and careful use.They strongly recommend that households with young children use traditional laundry detergent. The study authors also say a national safety standard is needed to improve product packaging and labeling.

Brian Williams concluded his report by sharing that, as a result of this study and the attention it is getting, the manufacturers of the laundry pods are working on an education campaign to promote the safe storage of laundry pods and their use in homes with young children.

 

The FDA Ensures Foods from Animals Are Safe

animals

In case you were wondering, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to know that it ensures foods from animals are safe.

If you eat meat or drink milk, you want to know: Are there trace amounts of the veterinary drugs used in food-producing animals entering your diet? And if they are, are the amounts safe for human consumption?

Those questions—among others—are the concern of the Division of Residue Chemistry, which is part of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Sick food-producing animals such as pigs, cows, and chickens can be given antibiotics or other drugs to treat diseases. (Some farms also give animals antibiotics to help them grow faster, a practice FDA is working to eliminate by promoting the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.) Producers must then wait for the drug to leave the animal’s system before they can slaughter it for consumption. It’s important to ensure that any remaining trace amounts of the drugs are safe to eat by the time the food reaches our plates.

“Our job is twofold,” says Division Director Philip Kijak, Ph.D. “We validate the methods drug companies use to test for drug trace amounts in foods from animals, and we help develop newer and better methods for testing.”

On the first point, the sponsor—usually, the animal pharmaceuticals company—of a drug to be used in a food animal must complete required testing that establishes the drug’s tolerance (a measure of safety), and develop a method to show whether the trace amount in the animal food product is within that tolerance.

“Then we are responsible for validating that method—making sure not only that it works and is accurate, but that it’s a practical method any standard chemical laboratory can use,” Kijak says.

Making Sure Milk Is Safe

For example, the Division examines the methods used to test milk for trace amounts of veterinary drugs used in dairy cows.

Under the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance standards issued by the FDA and the U.S. Public Health Service, all milk must be tested for beta-lactam antibiotics, the most common drugs used by dairy farms. FDA’s role is to evaluate Animalsand approve the data and methods submitted by companies that manufacture rapid-screening tests for these drugs. Rapid screening is important because milk is perishable, and results are needed on the spot.

“Think of these as off-the-shelf kits, like those consumers buy for pregnancy testing,” Kijak says. It’s up to the individual dairies and state regulators to choose the approved kits they want to use. Since 1994, when FDA began evaluating test-kits, the amount of milk containing beta-lactam drugs has dropped from 0.15 percent to 0.014 percent—more than a tenfold decrease, Kijak adds.

Developing Methods to Test Meat

In addition, FDA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) and state regulators to monitor meat, poultry, eggs, and milk for trace amounts of unapproved or unsafe drugs. FSIS tests the foods for a variety of these medications and reports violations to FDA, which follows up with regulatory action when needed.

“To do this job, we had to focus on developing new methods to detect trace amounts of penicillin and other antibiotics,” Kijak says. “With the older method, we were able to tell if penicillin or penicillin and other drugs were present, but we were unable to measure the exact amount of the penicillin when the sample contained more than one drug.” Without this specific information, it was possible for products with unsafe amounts of penicillin to pass inspection. The newer method, which was developed in close cooperation with USDA, enables inspectors to determine if multiple drugs are present, and the amount of each.

Testing for Fungus in Animal Feeds

Recently, the division has become increasingly involved in developing methods to detect mycotoxins and other contaminants in animal feeds. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds made by fungi that grow on grains. Poor growing methods and improper storage conditions can promote the development of these compounds, which that can enter our diets in meat from animals that consumed the contaminated feed.

“While these fungi are almost always present in grain, it’s the amount of mycotoxins that can make the difference between safe and unsafe foods from animals,” Kijak explains. “The new methods enable us to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure the tested products are safe for consumers.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

November 3, 2014