Most parents and grandparents know that keeping medicine out of children’s hands is important. But every minute a poison control center answers a call about a young child getting into medicine, and every 8 minutes a child goes to the emergency room for medicine poisoning. What’s happening to drive these frequent and alarming situations?
These worrisome statistics come from a new report from Safe Kids Worldwide titled “Keeping Families Safe Around Medicine.” While the numbers are concerning, they serve as a wakeup call reminding people that nearly half a million children are getting into medicine even though most parents and caregivers know that it should be kept up and away from kids.
One reason these numbers are so high may be related to the changing makeup of U.S. households. The number of multigenerational households continues to increase; since 2005 there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of grandparents living with their grandchildren. Many older people take medication regularly, and that medicine may be stored in places that are easily accessible to adults and children alike.
Safe Kids Worldwide, a global nonprofit dedicated to preventing childhood injury, surveyed more than 1,000 grandparents who regularly supervise their young grandchildren. About 28 percent of grandparents report keeping their medicine in easy-open containers or bottles without child-resistant caps. Among grandparents who use these, 42 percent keep prescription medicine on a bathroom or kitchen sink, counter, table or shelf – locations that children can easily reach.
The reality today is that roughly three out of four ER visits (77 percent) for medicine poisoning in young children result from kids getting into their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine. Adults need to be reminded that there are no exceptions for keeping medicine out of children’s hands, even if that means storing the medicine in a place that might be less convenient.
Safe Kids Worldwide offers these expert tips to keep kids safe around medicine:
1. Keep all medicine up and away when young children are around, even medicine you take every day.
2. Be alert to medicine stored in other locations, like pills in purses, vitamins on counters and medicine on nightstands.
3. Even if you are tempted to keep it handy between doses, put medicine out of reach after every use.
4. Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, if you’re able to. If pill boxes or non-child resistant caps are the only option, it’s even more important to store these containers up high and out of sight when caring for kids.
5. Program the nationwide Poison Help Number (1-800-222-1222) into your phones. Visit safekids.org for more tips on safe storage, safe dosing and safe disposal of medicine.