Prescription of Child Safety: Store All Medicines Up and Away and Out of Sight
By Dr. Dan Budnitz
Director of Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s Medication Safety Program
Cold and flu season is upon us, and many moms and dads are beginning to stock home medicine cabinets in anticipation of the stuffy noses, coughs and fevers that winter often brings. While it may seem like common knowledge to store medications out of the reach of children, more than 70,000 young children – roughly four busloads of kids each day – end up in emergency rooms each year after getting into medicine and vitamins that were left within reach.
Toddlers and young children are curious and can quickly get into medicines or vitamins when parents and caregivers aren’t looking. They get into medicines that are placed by bedside tables and kitchen sinks, or kept in purses and diaper bags, or come across pills that have fallen on the floor, or that are kept in jacket pockets. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. A few simple safe storage steps – followed every time – can protect our kids:
1) Never leave medicine or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.
2) Always re-lock the safety cap on a medicine bottle. If it has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click.
3) Never tell children medicine is candy so they’ll take it, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine.
4) Tell children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them.
5) Remind babysitters, house guests, and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.
6) Program the poison control center number (1-800-222-1222) into your home and cell phones so you will have it when you need it.
Whether it’s during the winter when cold/flu season is at its peak, or in the spring and fall when many of us rely on allergy medications to treat our symptoms, remember to put all medicines, vitamins or supplements that you or your kids may take up and away and out of sight every time they are used.
For downloadable safe medicine storage tip sheets, “teachable moment” coloring pages for kids and more, visit www.UpandAway.org.
Each year, more than 70,000 children age 5 and younger – roughly four busloads of kids each day – end up in emergency rooms after getting in to medicines that were left out within reach. These are called “accidental unsupervised ingestion's” – and are preventable if parents, grandparents and caregivers are better alerted to the importance of safe medicine storage. The Centers for Disease Control and its PROTECT Initiative recently launched the Up and Away and Out of Sight campaign to educate parents about the importance of safe medicine storage. With access to so many parents of young children across the country, NAEYC members can help support these educational efforts by displaying posters in childcare center hallways, or making brochures available to parents. Order free Up & Away posters and brochures for hallways via the order page here, or download and print tip sheets for parents in your school communities. A brief article on this topic from CDC is also available for your school’s parent newsletters/e-newsletters. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy sent to you. We can all work together to be voices for child safety!