Medication safety: Protect children from accidental poisoning

Person reaches into medicine cabinet

Parents aren’t the only ones who should lock up or keep potential poisons out of reach.

Anyone can be poisoned. In fact, 90 percent of all unintentional poisonings happen at home.

Children ages 5 and under make up 51 percent of all poison exposures in the U.S., according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

So what can you do to keep children safe?

“The most important thing is to make sure all the occupants’ medicines are safely put away – not only in your house, but everywhere your child visits. Do they go to grandma’s? To daycare? To their friends?” said Dr. Vanessa Chiapetta, a pediatrician with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic. “You have to make sure that every place they stay is as poison-proof as your own home. Even children as young as 9-12 months of age are mobile and can eat anything that they can reach so you should go through your home, room to room on your knees even, to be sure anything dangerous is moved to a safer place or locked up. Adult medications,alcoholic beverages,household products and small objects can be deadly to children if ingested.

Child-resistant packaging has helped to reduce accidental poisonings since it was introduced in 1972.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it’s estimated that child-resistant packaging for aspirin and oral prescription medicine has saved 900 lives since rules were put in place in the 1970s, but despite regulations, the number of exposures to household chemicals and medicines remains high.

Caregivers should also take precautions with household cleaners and other products. All chemicals should be locked up and out of sight. You should also keep them in their original containers. Never use food containers to store any kind of chemical.

“If the child drinks these chemicals, they can be very caustic and can injure their esophagus and cause permanent damage to the tissues involved.,” Chiapetta said.

Poison proof your home

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends everyone follow these guidelines for preventing accidental poisonings.

  1. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after use.
  2. Keep all chemicals and medicines locked up and out of sight.
  3. When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take the child or product along when answering the phone or doorbell.
  4. Keep items in original containers.
  5. Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using.
  6. Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them because lamp oil is very toxic.
  7. Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every time.
  8. Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as “medicine,” not “candy.”
  9. Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically, and safely dispose of unneeded medicines when the illness for which they were prescribed is over. Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.

If you suspect someone has been poisoned, call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222, and you will be connected to your local poison center.

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