Patient Safety Week: 8 tips to prevent medicine poisoning in young children

By Anna Edwards Mar 16, 2015

Children are curious by nature and medications can be tempting.  Many medications look and taste just like candy.  While we want to encourage our children to explore their world, when it comes to medications, we need to take steps to keep them safe.

March 8-14 is Patient Safety Awareness Week, an annual education campaign for healthcare safety. Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning in the United States.  In 2011, nearly 67,000 children were seen in emergency rooms around the county for medicine poisoning.  This equals about one child every eight hours.

Keeping medications away from children is one of the best ways to practice patient safety at home. Here are eight tips that can help keep your child safe:

  1. Pick a place your child cannot reach.Make sure that all medicines and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children.
  2. Put medications away every time. It’s easy to leave out medications out after use, especially those used regularly.  Consider this, in three out of four emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent. Always put every medicine or vitamin away every time you use it.
  3. Make sure the safety cap is locked. If the medication has a locking cap, twist it until you hear the click or until it won’t twist anymore.  Taking a few extra seconds to make sure the cap is locked can prevent accidental poisoning.  Remember: Some children can open safety caps, so it’s still important to keep medications out of reach.
  4. Consider products you might not think about as medicines.Most parents put products that they consider to be medicine up and away.  However, there are a number of dangerous medicinal items that may be over looked such as diaper rash cream, eye drops and vitamins.  A good rule of thumb: If you’re not sure about a product, put it away.
  5. Give the right dose. Proper dosing is important, especially for young children. Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine to prevent dosing errors.
  6. Teach your children about medicine safety. Tell your children what medicine is and why it’s important that you give it to them.
  7. Tell your guests about medicine safety. Ask house guests and visitors to put purses, coats and bags that may contain medicine out of reach and out of sight when they are visiting.
  8. Be prepared in case of an emergency. Put the toll-free Poison Help Number into your home and cell phone: 1-800-222-1222. Post the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. Remember: The poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine.

For more information poison prevention, visit www.safekids.org

Anna Edwards

Anna Edwards is the grant coordinator for the Safe Communities program at Wyoming Medical Center. She has more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit program development and management.  She is the mother of a very active toddler. When she’s not running after her daughter, Anna spends her time reading, gardening and managing her growing obsession with yarn. Email her at aedwards@wyomingmedicalcenter.org or call (307) 577-7904.

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