Poison Control Centers across the nation introduced a new initiative this year called “Safe Kids”. In conjunction with that, Safe Kids Worldwide unveiled a new initiative called “Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids”.
Poison Control Centers are focusing on this initiative because of some staggering new statistics that spotlight the fact that poisons alone are not the only child safety issue in the home.
Medications that we commonly have in our medicine cabinets potentially could pose an even greater risk. EACH DAY approximately 165 kids are seen in emergency rooms after ingesting prescription medications. That’s roughly four school busloads of kids!
An even more sobering statistic is that of the children taken to emergency rooms for accidental medication overdoses, 95% swallowed the products while being unsupervised. Only in 5% of the cases did a caregiver make a dosing error. This translates to one simple fact: we as parents and caregivers are not doing enough to keep medications out of the reach of our children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that, although the overall U.S. deaths due to poisoning among children plunged by half between 1979 and 2006, the percentage of those deaths from medications (both prescription and over-the-counter products) nearly DOUBLED from 36% to 64%.
If a single factor for this increase in medication related deaths were identified, the answer to this problem would be simple. Unfortunately, the solutions are rarely so obvious.
The reality is that these skyrocketing statistics are due to a multitude of factors. They include:
1) More available medications in the home
2) Improperly stored medications at home
3) Rising number of households with multiple generations, especially the elderly
4) Unsupervised children (who just love to put things into their mouths)
5) The natural curiosity of children, especially when medications look like candy
6) Momentary or intermittent unsupervised periods (like a parent or caregiver going to the bathroom)
7) Caregivers who mistakenly think “child resistant” packaging means “child proof”
8) Thinking that “over-the-counter” (OTC) means the medication is not harmful in large quantities
The statistics show that we are doing a much better job of keeping household cleaners and other chemical poisoning out of the reach of children. The question is, what can we do to keep medications out of their hands? A simple solution is to LOCK DRUGS AWAY the same way we do with the most dangerous household cleaners. Simply LOCK MEDICATIONS out of sight and that does the trick.
When my children were young and inquisitive (still inquisitive but not so young now), the medications in our home were locked in a toolbox and put up high in a closet. A metal toolbox, an inexpensive padlock and finding a secure hiding place will exponentially decreased the risk of kids getting into any medication.
The same advice goes to grandparents and other caregivers when our loved ones come over for a visit. Remember, tragedy can happen in an instant (while we’re in the bathroom, while taking out the trash, etc), so be prepared and put some forethought into the potential dangers to our little visitors.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them.