5 Safety Tips to Keep Little Hands Away from Candy-like Medications

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Medicines that look like candy plays a significant role toward a sharp increase in the number of children who are seen in emergency rooms and/or are admitted to a hospital for an accidental overdose of both prescription and non-prescription medications. However, medical researchers say that a lot of the blame rests on parents who are not only taking more medications now than a decade ago, but who are also failing to adequately keep their medications out of reach of little hands.

A recent news report describes a study conducted by two elementary school students and two medical doctors from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on how easily people can mistake medicine for candy. The research team collected a mix of 20 look-alike candies and pills and asked 30 teachers and 30 kindergarten students to identify which are pills and which are candies.

The results of the study showed that the students were correct 71 percent of the time and that the teachers were correct 78 percent of the time in differentiating between pills and candy. Furthermore, the participants were surveyed about medications in the home. Approximately 78 percent responded that the medications were not locked away or out of reach.

According to a press release statement from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Randall Bond, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, states that poisoning cases involving children are on the rise. “The problem of pediatric medication poisoning is getting worse, not better,” says Dr. Bond, who also is medical director of the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “More children are exposed, more are seen in emergency departments, more are admitted to hospitals, and more are harmed each year.”

Dr. Bond found that exposure to prescription products accounted for 55 percent of emergency visits and 76 percent of admissions, with 71 percent resulting in significant injury to the child. Opioid type prescription medications accounted for a majority of the poisonings including pain medications, sedatives-hypnotics, sleep aids and cardiovascular medications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 70,000 emergency visits each year result from unintentional medication poisoning among children under the age of 18.

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“Prevention efforts at home have been insufficient,” says Dr. Bond. “We need to improve storage devices and child-resistant closures and perhaps require mechanical barriers, such as blister packs. Our efforts can’t ignore society’s problem with opioid and sedative abuse or misuse.”

To prevent your child from accidental medication poisoning, the CDC lists five simple and effective tips for parents to follow in storing their medications at home:

Tip #1: Use child resistant safety caps on all medication containers, and keep the containers stored inside a locked cabinet.

Tip #2: Keep all medications in their original containers. Do not reuse containers for splitting up stored medications for travel, family vacations or for storing food items.

Tip #3: Leave foil-packed medicines in their foil packs until it is time to take a pill. Do not pre-open the packs for later use or transfer to another container. The foil packs are difficult for little fingers to open and they prevent ingestion of multiple pills at one time.

Tip #4: Make it habit to check your medicine cabinet monthly for expired medications. Take the medications to a pharmacy for proper disposal. Children are like raccoons, they will dig into the trash can if they think they see candy.

Tip #5: Have a copy of the nationwide Poison Control Center hotline number available beside every phone in the house and/or on speed dial. The number is 1-800-222-1222.

Source: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

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