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Keep kids away from the medicine cabinet
March 20th, 2012
02:01 AM ET

Keep kids away from the medicine cabinet

It’s a stunning statistic: Each day roughly four school busloads of U.S. children – about 165 young kids – are seen in emergency rooms after getting into medications - and each visit is preventable.

Those are the findings revealed in a report by Safe Kids Worldwide, which unveiled a new initiative Tuesday called “Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids." The campaign calls on caregivers, medical personnel, pharmacists, drug makers and government groups to work to reduce accidental poisonings of children from medications.

“This is a brand new initiative for Safe Kids, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of poison control centers and National Poisoning Prevention week,” says Safe Kids Worldwide president/CEO Kate Carr.

The report, which contains poisoning data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, reveals that while overall U.S. poisoning deaths among kids plunged by half from 1979 to 2006 - the percentage of those deaths from medications – both prescription and over-the-counter products – has nearly doubled, jumping from 36% to 64%.

The skyrocketing trend is blamed on several factors, including more available and improperly stored medications in homes. Also, the report points to rising numbers of households with multiple generations - which increases child access to medications. Other reasons cited by the report include improperly coordinated medication dosing because of multiple caregivers, and unsupervised young children who love to put things in their mouths.

“Kids in homes are curious, “ explains Carr, “and kids are always going to be curious, so if you have medication, make sure it’s stored up and away.”

She also notes that many pills look like candy, which can be enticing to children.

Among children who are taken to the emergency room due to accidental medication overdoses, 95% swallowed products while being unsupervised, according to the report.

Something as simple as a caregiver leaving a child alone in order to use the restroom can result in an emergency situation. Five percent of emergency visits were due to caregivers making a dosing error.

Safe Kids' new initiative to fight medication-related poisonings and deaths calls for changes among caregivers, the pharmaceutical industry, the health care community, and both federal and state governments.

The plan urges parents, grandparents, childcare providers and other caregivers to become familiar with safe storage practices, and Safe Kids cites the CDC’s new “Up and Away and Out of Sight” educational program which reminds caregivers to store medications out of sight and out of reach of children.

Caregivers should never refer to medications as "candy."

It's critical that caregivers always close child-resistant bottle caps on medications, and put them out of sight and out of reach of children.

Parents and caregivers should also program the Poison Help number (1-800-222-1222) into home and cell phones.

Safe Kids calls on the pharmaceutical industry to conduct further research to reduce dosage errors, and eliminate sources of confusion on dosages of medications.

They favor improving child resistant packaging, noting that “child resistant” does not mean “child proof”, and many motivated children are able to open child resistant packaging.

The initiative also asks physicians and pharmacists to educate parents and caregivers about safe dosage practices and proper storage of medicines, as well as reminding caregivers of risks associated with common products such as vitamins, cough and cold medications and acetaminophen.

Pharmacists are urged to make sure caregivers understand how medications should be taken, including proper storage of all medications.

The report stresses that federal and local governments have “a critical role to play in medication safety,” including effective regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, supporting funding for poison control centers, providing leadership in public health education programs, and providing medication disposal program.

Carr explains that “while accidents do happen, many of them are preventable, and it’s important to identify risks and teach parents and caregivers what they can do to prevent an unneccesary accident.”


soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Myto Senseworth

    Teens that are raiding the family med cabinet have also become a problem. These "poisons" are being randomly ingested. Child resistant is not good enough. Drugs need to be under lock and key with an alarm system. I am glad to see attention being given to a growing problem. Thanks CNN.

    March 20, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bruce

      I agree, not only is abuse of Rx meds way up, it also appears teen suicides are on the rise. At the NJ Poison Center it seems like we are getting more and more teen suicides every day..... 800 222 1222 is the number for your local poison center.

      March 20, 2012 at 22:00 | Report abuse |
    • Samuel

      The reason there are so many suicides is because doctors are pumping kids with psychiatric drugs, most likely SSRI's. These drugs cause suicidal and homicidal behavior. Haven't we figured out yet that big pharma is destroying this country and our government isn't going to do anything about it? Better yet, they are complicit in these crimes. Can we all stop being so naive.

      March 21, 2012 at 22:28 | Report abuse |
    • The Locking Cap

      Check this new product out for medication safekeeping
      http://www.thelockingcap.com

      May 6, 2012 at 04:35 | Report abuse |
  2. bobh

    "young children who love to put things in their mouths" This sounds just like my girlfriend.

    March 20, 2012 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Medication Safety

      Thanks for the great link The Locking Cap.

      The Combination Lock on a medicine bottle is a great way to keep medications safe.

      I found a coupon code, "Preventabuse" at http://www.thelockingcap.com

      I lock up all my medications after my child experimented with my prescription medications.

      October 28, 2013 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  3. bruce

    Remember poison experts from your local poison center are available 24/7 365 at 800 222 1222. In the last 24 hours experts at the NJ Poison Center took almost 190 calls for help. These calls are from the public as well as medical professionals. That's right, even physicians, nurses and pharmacists reach out to the poison experts. All calls are free and confidential.

    March 20, 2012 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sandy

    Some medicines are easier to keep out of kids' reach than others. My daughter tried to give herself an unscheduled dose of penicillin, which was a liquid and kept in the refrigerator. Luckily she tried to use the injection dispenser and upset the whole bottle before she ingested much of it. (We ended up putting a lock on the refrigerator. The first kid didn't need it, but the second needed locks *everywhere*.)

    March 22, 2012 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Andrew from LPN Trainings

    All medicines are very harmful and they can cause serious and critical side effects when taken inappropriately, and therefore they should be kept away from children. Thank you for sharing this information as it reminds me of once my nephew overdosed from actal tablets thinking they were sweets. He had to be admitted and the drug flushed out of his system. Many children go through this and therefore caretakers and parents should store drugs and any other harmful substances properly.

    March 25, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. How to play the violin

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    April 10, 2012 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.