Prescription medications have many benefits, including managing pain, regulating chronic conditions, preventing disease and more. Despite numerous positives, medications can be dangerous to others in your household, especially kids.
As routines have changed and people are spending more time at home, parents may be unintentionally leaving medications out and accessible to children. Babies and toddlers may rattle medicine bottles like a toy. Curious kids may think the contents inside are candy. Child-resistant caps aren’t enough, as many children can open them easily.
Every eight minutes a child goes to an emergency room for medicine poisoning, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, and three out of four ER visits for medicine poisoning are due to kids getting into parents’ or grandparents’ medicine. Unintentional injuries including poisoning are the leading cause of mortality among infants and children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows the vast majority (90%) of poisonings occur at home. National Poison Prevention Week is March 21-27, a good reminder to look at how you use medications in your household and adopt safer practices that include:
Never leave medications out: When busy multitasking, you may leave your medication out on a counter or toss it in your purse or backpack. Leaving it out even for a minute could be enough time for a child to access and open it. Don’t leave medications where kids can see them or where they can easily be found, such as in drawers, on nightstands or in bags. If the medication is for your child when they are sick, never leave it in their bedroom.
Store medicines out of reach: Choose one storage location for all medication that is out of reach of children. This can be anywhere throughout the home that is high and out of sight. Get in the habit of putting medication back in its safe storage location every time.
Use a locking container: Even though most prescription containers have child-resistant caps, children can find ways to open them. Consider using Safe Rx Locking Pill Bottles to secure medications. The convenient portable containers require a four-digit code aligned from bottom to top to open. When you are done, you simply replace the cap and mix the numbers to lock the bottle securely.
Talk with your children: Be honest with kids about the dangers of taking prescriptions. Adjust your conversation based on your child’s age, stressing that medications are only meant for the person the doctor prescribed them for and can be harmful to anyone else. Tell them to never take a medication without checking with you first and if they find any pills or bottles to bring them to you right away.
Dispose of unneeded medication properly: Check if your community has a drug disposal program for any unneeded medications. Many pharmacies offer take-back programs as well to properly dispose of unused prescriptions. If nothing is available near you, dispose of medications at home by mixing the pills or capsules in a container with an unappealing substance like dirt or cat litter before placing in the trash.
These steps will help significantly reduce the chances your child will access your medication. However, in case of emergency, call poison control immediately. Program the poison control center at 800-222-1222 into your home and cell phones. You may want to add this number on a sticky note or other label in your medicine storage space as well.