Updated: Jan 28
Keeping children safe around medications is vital to keeping them healthy and safe. A staggering 50,000 children are rushed to the emergency room each year because they got ahold of medication while an adult was not looking. You may think that putting medications in the medicine cabinet and child-resistant packaging is enough, but most incidents occur because adults underestimate a child’s ability to bypass these precautions. The misuse of medications can have dire repercussions, which is why it is important that adults with children are dedicated to creating an environment where children do not have access to medications. Fortunately, this can be achieved through proper storage, use, and disposal.
The way you store medication when it is not in use is the first line of defense in protecting your child from medication poisoning. This includes things that you may not initially think is considered medication like vitamins, supplements, eye drops, or medicated creams. These can still be harmful to children if they are ingested or used improperly. Follow these tips for proper storage:
Put Medications Away Immediately - First, make sure you always put medication away immediately after you are done using it. Even if the medication requires multiple doses and will be used again shortly, it only takes a moment for a child to discover a medication that has been left out. In emergency room visits for medicine poisonings, most adults say that they only turned their back for a minute.
Keep Out of Reach and Out of Sight - The best place to store medication is out of reach and out of sight. Storing medications up high is best, however, be sure to watch out for those curious climbers! Also make sure the safety cap on your medication is always replaced after use and that it is secured tightly and properly. Remember that “child-resistant” packaging does not mean it is childproof. Research suggests that about half of the instances of child medicine poisoning involved child-resistant packaging.
Inform Visitors - When you have guests over, inform them that bags and purses that contain any form of medication should be kept out of the reach of children.
2. PROPER USE
Proper use of medication is essential for keeping your children safe and teaching them about responsible use. Whether you are modeling responsible use or administering medication to your child, it is important to know how to use it properly. Check out these tips for learning more about medications and taking them on time:
Know What is on Your Medicine Label - Read the Drug Facts of a medication before giving it to your child. The Drug Facts will tell you the active and inactive ingredients (check to be sure your child is not allergic to any of these), the uses for the medicine (what symptoms it treats), warnings about possible side effects and who should not take the medication, directions for uses, and storage information. For more information, your local independent pharmacy can provide information and guidance.
Ensure Proper Dosage - Always read all dosing instructions on the label and follow them precisely. If a medication comes with a dosing device, do not attempt to substitute it. Correct measurements can only be ensured if the medication is administered with the provided device.
Use A Reminder Tool - Using a reminder tool can help you keep track of when a child’s medication needs to be taken. This means no skipped or repeated doses that could potentially harm them. Consider setting an alarm on your phone or giving them medication before or after a daily task, such as brushing their teeth.
Teach Responsibility - The foundation of teaching your children about medication responsibility is by modeling responsible use yourself. Do not refer to medication as candy, always replace the safety cap, and store medicine away when it is not in use. Teach children that only a trusted adult can administer medication and that it can potentially harm them if it is not taken as directed.
The proper disposal of medicine that is expired or no longer used can also prevent accidents in your home. Throwing medication directly in the trash places the medication within reach of children and can have harmful consequences. Thankfully, there are multiple ways to avoid this from happening.
Drug Take-Back Programs
Many communities have drug take-back programs to assist you in disposing of your medication. These collection sites are registered with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and exist to gather medications safely and securely. These locations may be hospitals, pharmacies, or law enforcement facilities. Find a medicine take-back program near you.
At Home Disposal
If you are disposing of your medication in your home, experts recommend pouring the medicine into a sealable plastic bag and adding water to dissolve it. Then, add kitty litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds to the plastic bag to make it less appealing for children before throwing it away.
4. FIRST AID
Even if all precautions are taken, accidents can still happen. If your child gets into a medication, do not panic. Depending on the situation, take the following first aid steps:
Skin Contact - In the event of skin contact, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
Eye Exposure - If your child encounters an eye irritant, thoroughly rinse with water for 20 minutes.
Ingestion - In case of a medical emergency, such as ingestion, call your poison control center at 800-222-1222 right away. Even if you are not completely sure that your child has accidentally gotten into a medication that they should not have, it is better to err on the side of caution. We recommend putting the number in your phone, so it is easily accessible if you ever need it.
Adults should always be responsible for the proper storage, use, and disposal of medications to keep children safe from harm. There can be serious consequences if children get into medicine that they should not have access to. To ensure your child’s safety and wellbeing, it is necessary to educate yourself on all best practices regarding how to keep children safe around medication.