Findings by SafeKids Worldwide reveal that each day there are about 165 U.S. children treated in an emergency room after getting into household medications. That’s an astounding statistic because all of these visits were preventable.
Safe Kids Worldwide is a global network of organizations with a mission of preventing unintentional childhood injury, a leading cause of death and disability for children ages 14 and under.
SafeKids Worldwide released the report and unveiled a new initiative called “Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids." The campaign calls on caregivers, medical personnel, pharmacists, drug makers and government groups to work to reduce accidental poisonings of children from medications.
“This is a brand new initiative for Safe Kids, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of poison control centers and National Poisoning Prevention week,” says Safe Kids Worldwide president/CEO Kate Carr.
The report contains data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). While the numbers of childhood poisoning deaths have decreased by half from 1979 to 2006, the percentage of those deaths from prescription and over-the-counter medicines has nearly doubled, jumping from 36% to 64%.
What’s causing this increase? There are several factors including more available and improperly stored medications in homes. Also, the report points to rising numbers of households with multiple generations - which increases child access to medications. Other reasons cited by the report include improperly coordinated medication dosing because of multiple caregivers, and unsupervised young children who love to put things in their mouths.
“Kids in homes are curious, “ explains Carr, “and kids are always going to be curious, so if you have medication, make sure it’s stored up and away.”
Pills may also look like candy to very young children. The data revealed that 95% of the children taken to emergency rooms for accidental poisoning had been left unsupervised. 5 % were because a caregiver gave an incorrect dose of medicine.
Safe Kids' new initiative to fight medication-related poisonings and deaths calls for changes among caregivers, the pharmaceutical industry, the health care community, and both federal and state governments.
Some safety tips offered by SafeKids Worldwide are:
- Always store medicines and vitamins in a locked location, out of the reach and sight of children
.- Always put medicines and vitamins away after every use. Never leave them on the counter between doses. Don’t be tempted to “keep them handy” in a purse, backpack, or briefcase, or in an unlocked cabinet or a drawer within a child’s reach.
- Buy child-resistant packages when available and securely close them every time.
- Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses and bags that contain medicine up and away when they visit your home.
- Never leave any medicines out or on a counter.
- Program the poison control center number ‒ 1-800-222-1222 ‒ into your home and cell phones so you have it when you need it.
The report stresses that federal and local governments have “a critical role to play in medication safety,” including effective regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, supporting funding for poison control centers, providing leadership in public health education programs, and providing medication disposal program.
Carr explains that “while accidents do happen, many of them are preventable, and it’s important to identify risks and teach parents and caregivers what they can do to prevent an unnecessary accident.”
It only takes a few precious moments for a child to put something in his or her mouth that could have deadly consequences. The plan urges parents, grandparents, childcare providers and other caregivers to become familiar with safe storage practices, and Safe Kids cites the CDC’s new “Up and Away and Out of Sight” educational program which reminds caregivers to store medications out of sight and out of reach of children.