Accidental Poisoning in Kids: Painkillers Often the Culprit
Take these simple steps to help save your child from an accidental poisoning.
Toddlers are naturally curious. They'll put almost anything in their mouth, including a tiny pain pill dropped on the floor or left on the counter just for a second.
What's most unsettling is that just one pain pill may be enough take a child's life. A study by the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver showed that over 3 years, more than 9,000 kids under 6 years old accidentally ingested narcotic painkillers. Forty-three developed life-threatening illnesses. Eight died. Most of the pain pills ingested were prescribed for an adult living in the household.
Startling statistics, simple solutions
Here are some simple steps to keep in mind to help save your child from an accidental poisoning.
First, if you set out to take a pill, take it before you move on to some other task. Don't let yourself get distracted and leave medication out in the open where a curious child can pick it up. When it's time to take a pill, you might go on "auto pilot." If you don't pay attention to what you're doing, you can become easily distracted by a phone call or someone talking. If you are taking a pill, think or say aloud "finish taking your pill." This focused reminder may help prevent a dangerous mistake. Never set it down once you take it out of the bottle.
Narcotic pain pills are especially harmful to children in small doses. Other types of medication and other substances (such as cleaning solutions) can poison your child too. Keep pills and other dangerous substances away from kids. Here's how:
- Keep all medications in childproof containers far out of reach, in locked cabinets. It is important to lock the medicine cabinet. A curious child may stand on a toilet or stool to open the cabinet to see what's inside.
- Keep track of pills and never leave a bottle out where a child can reach it.
- Keep a lock on the refrigerator if you must refrigerate a liquid pain medication or other drug that could poison a child.
- Tell any friends or relatives staying with you to be very careful with their medications. This is especially important for older adult visitors, who are not used to being around children and who may take multiple drugs.
- Talk to babysitters and other caretakers with whom you leave your child about their medications. Tell them to keep their medications out of your child's reach.
- Never tell your children that medicines are "candy."
- Secure cabinets containing cleaning supplies and other dangerous substances with a child-proof safety latch.
If you see your child ingest a pill, save the bottle and call the Poison Control Center right away. Call the national center at 800-222-1222, or call your local Poison Control if you have one. Keep these numbers posted where you can see them.