October 21st, 2016

Medicine safety as important for teens as toddlers

Protecting children from harm is a priority for every parent. They are encouraged to child-proof the entire house to keep curious toddlers safe. Eventually, as kids mature, parents tend to give them new freedoms and responsibilities. New data shows that parents need to be particularly watchful about medicine safety, not just for toddlers, but for teens as well.

While younger kids generate far more calls to poison centers for medicine poisonings, teens are at greater risk for serious outcomes related to medicine errors, according to the Safe Kids research study, “Medicine Safety for Children: An In-Depth Look at Calls to Poison Centers.”

In the report, Safe Kids Worldwide, in partnership with the American Association of Poison Control Centers and with the support of McNeil Consumer Healthcare, analyzed more than 547,000 calls that came into the poison centers for children 19 and younger.

While the majority of calls to the poison centers – more than 1,100 per day – are about a young child getting into medicine or getting too much medicine, the more surprising insight is that the percent of teens ages 15-19 who experience a serious outcome is more than six times greater than the percent for 1 to 4 year-olds.

Why are teens more at risk for severe incidents? Teens in charge of managing their own medicine can make mistakes, such as forgetting to take medicine and then doubling up later, taking two medicines with the same ingredient, or taking the wrong medicine. There are about 10,000 emergency room visits a year for medicine overdose by teens taking over-the-counter medicine incorrectly.

Medicine safety tips for parents of pre-teens and teens:

1. Educate pre-teens and teens on how to read over-the-counter drug facts and prescription labels. Take the time to teach your child about each section of a drug facts label and its purpose. For a great resource on this topic, visit: http://bit.ly/18xpWLB.

2. Communicate to pre-teens and teens the importance of taking only those medicines that are meant for them. Taking medicine that belongs to someone else or misusing medicines (even over-the-counter) can cause harm.

3. Teach pre-teens and teens that medicine labels are rules, not guidelines. Be sure they know that taking more than the recommended dose will not help them get relief any faster, and it could hurt them.

4. Check in with them and talk about any medicine they are taking regularly. Even pre-teens and teens who need to take medicine daily may make errors in dosage or frequency, so it is important to communicate with them regularly about taking medicine responsibly.

The more prepared you are, the better you can help protect your child against medicine poisoning. The best tip for all parents, caregivers and teens is to save the toll-free Poison Help line number on your phone: 1-800-222-1222. The 55 poison centers in the U.S. have highly trained poison experts standing by 24/7 to help parents at no cost.  

For more information, visit www.safekids.org

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