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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
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Explaining the Increase in Childhood Poisonings

The increase in childhood poisonings by medication are easily explained, Bond says. "More medicines are out there for kids to get in to," he says.

For instance, 50% of adults reported taking at least one prescription medicine in a 1998 survey, and 7% five or more, Bond says, citing other research. By 2006, the same researcher found 55% took at least one prescription medicine, and 11% took five or more.

"These are preventable injuries," Bond says. Parents need to be reminded that medications need to be ''out of sight and locked up."

That means immediately after taking them or giving them to children, he says.

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.

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