Children are curious by nature. And while it’s important to nurture your child’s curiosity, you need to take steps to keep kids safe while they learn and explore, especially when it comes to medications.
The number of accidental drug overdoses in young children has increased by 20 percent in recent years, according to the CDC. Each year, 1 of every 150 2 year olds visits an emergency department in the U.S. for an unintentional medication overdose, most often after finding and eating or drinking medicines without adult supervision.
At Akron Children’s Hospital, 68 percent of children treated for drug poisonings in 2011 were ages 1 to 4.
Parents can’t rely on a medication’s packaging to keep their children safe, according to Akron Children’s Injury Prevention Coordinator Lisa Pardi. “The term ‘child-proof cap’ is a misnomer,” said the certified nurse practitioner. “The cap only delays entry to the medication and is not actually childproof.”
Pardi also points out that easy-open caps are available too – typically for those with arthritis – and therefore have no mechanism to delay entry by a curious child. “It’s imperative that grandparents and older loved ones are reminded of the risks as well.”
A new national, educational program, “Up and Away and Out of Sight,” offers the following safety tips for every household that has children visiting or living there:
- Pick a place children cannot reach.
- Put medicines and vitamins away every time you use them.
- Hear the click. Make sure the safety cap is locked.
- Teach children about medicine safety. Never tell children that medicine is candy, even if the child doesn’t like to take medicine.
- Tell guests about medication safety. Ask houseguests and visitors to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are visiting.
- Be prepared in case of emergency. Program the poison control number into home and cell phones (1–800–222–1222).
Disposing of medications
When it’s time to dispose of unwanted medications, experts advise against flushing or putting them in the trash. Summit County has 14 locations for free, safe disposal.
Improper disposal of medication is a growing concern that can lead to environmental problems and contribute to prescription drug abuse, especially among teens and young adults.