Report: Child-proof drug packaging does not halt accidental poisoning

Avoiding accidental poisoning among children younger than 6 might not be as simple as storing medicine out of reach, according to a new report from Safe Kids Worldwide.

The report, titled “Safe Medicine Storage: Recent Trends and Insights for Families and Health Educators” was created by Safe Kids with support from Johnson & Johnson.

Accidental poisoning sends toddlers and preschoolers to the hospital every 29 minutes, the report said, with a child dying every 12 days as a result of mistakingly consuming medicine. Although most parents agree with the concept of storing medicine out of reach and out of site, according to Safe Kids, children are still dying from mistakingly consuming medicine.

Half of parents surveyed by Safe Kids believe the term “child resistant” means a child cannot access the medicine, but research shows about half of poisonings occur when children get into child-resistant packaging, according the report.

“Kids are curious and will explore and taste everything they discover,” said Torine Creppy, president of Safe Kids Worldwide. “That’s why it’s so important for parents to practice safe medicine storage from day one.”

Follow established recommendations to avoid poisoning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend putting medicines up and away out of children’s reach — choosing a storage place in the home that children cannot reach or see. Parents should walk around the house and decide the safest place to keep medicine and vitamins.

Children also should be taught about medicine safety, according to the CDC, and parents should explain why only themselves or another trusted adult must be the only ones to give medicine. Parents also should never tell children medicine is candy to encourage them to take it, according to the CDC.

Parents also must keep in mind other products that might not be thought of as “medicine” such as diaper rash cream, vitamins, eye drops and even hand sanitizer, the report said. These types of items also should be out of children’s sight and reach.

When administering medications to children, only the device that comes with the medicine should be used, according to Safe Kids. Kitchen spoons and measuring spoons used for cooking cannot measure the amount of medicine the same as a dosing device, the report said. Clear instructions also should be written for caregivers if medicine needs to be administered to a child and Safe Kids recommends a medication schedule to help with communication between caregivers.

The opioid crisis is leading to more accidental poisonings

The opioid crisis has made accidental poisonings an even greater concern. A study published in December 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found hospitalizations for opioid poisonings increased nearly twofold between 1997 and 2012. Although hospitalization rates were highest among older adolescents, the largest percentage increase of hospitalizations occurred among toddlers and preschoolers.

“These children are getting into their parents’ or grandparents’ medication,” study author Julie R. Gaither, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Medicine told The Washington Post.

“Opioids are now ubiquitous in millions of U.S. homes. They are like guns — you have these dangerous things, and we need to keep [them] out of the hands of the most vulnerable,” Gaither continued.

Safe Kids also reminds parents how quickly accidental consumption of medications can occur. According to the report, one in three parents surveyed said if their children are being watched, it doesn’t matter as much where medicines are stored. But according to the report, parents whose children ended up in emergency rooms from accidental medicine poisoning often say they only turned their backs for a minute when their children got into the medicine.

“Even in homes where medicine is normally stored safely, children can quickly get into medicine left out between doses,” the report states. “That’s why it’s essential to put medicine out of reach and out of sight immediately after each use.”

Safe Kids recommends parents and caregivers keep the Poison Help number in their phones — 1-800-222-1222.

For more information, visit

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