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Childhood Poisoning by Medication on the Rise

Study Shows Increase in ER Visits Due to Poisoning From Medicines in Kids Age 5 and Under

Explaining the Increase in Childhood Poisonings continued...

Bond cites cases of children being poisoned after a parent gave them a proper dose, but then left the medication out within reach for a few minutes.

Parents should treat all medicines the same way when it comes to keeping them locked away, Bond says. "Sometimes parents think cold medications are in a different class and are safer," he says. Not true, he tells them.

Soon, more help may be coming from prescription drug manufacturers, Bond says.

He works with the PROTECT Initiative, a collaboration of government agencies such as the CDC, nonprofit organizations, and industry to promote medication safety.

Initially, the project targeted non-prescription medicines. It sponsored a campaign encouraging adults to put medicines up, away, and out of sight.

Next, Bond says, the project will start discussions with pharmaceutical companies about how to help reduce poisonings. Strategies include, for instance, adding a ''flow dispenser'' to liquid medicines. That way, children can't take off the top and drink it all.

Advice for Parents

Adults can keep handy the number of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 800-222-1222.  All 57 U.S. centers can be reached by the same number. The organization's web site also offers information about an app for the iPhone.

The increase of 30% in emergency department visits for childhood poisonings by medication is termed ''shocking'' by Michael Cohen, RPh, ScD, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

He reviewed the findings for WebMD.

The new study, he says, ''definitely shows we still have a big problem out there."

Adults can take some simple steps to reduce risk, Cohen says.

  • Be sure the child-resistant cap is closed correctly. Cohen finds they are often replaced incorrectly.
  • Treat patches infused with medicines (such as painkillers or nitroglycerin) the same as other medicines. He cites cases of children digging patches out of the trash and applying them. To dispose of them safely, he suggests folding them and putting them in a childproof container. Another option, depending on the manufacturer's instructions, is to flush them, he says.
  • Be aware of the ''granny syndrome."  When grandparents visit, they may store medicines in a suitcase left on the floor or in their pocketbooks, he says. Parents can remind them to put up and lock up the medicines.  
  • Store medicines in a cabinet above the children's eye level. Avoid the bathroom, as there is too much moisture. If the cabinet does not have a lock, buy an inexpensive plastic lock at a home supply store.
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