Many Toddlers Wind Up in ER After Accidental Overdose

New program advises parents on how to store medicines safely

TUESDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Each year in the United States, one of every 150 two-year-olds visits an emergency room for treatment of an accidental medication overdose, a new government report shows.

Most of these cases occur when unsupervised children eat or drink medicines they find at home, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new program to educate parents and caregivers about safe medication storage and what to do in an emergency was announced this week by the CDC and a coalition of partners. The "Up and Away and Out of Sight" program outlines measures parents can take to protect children.

"Parents may not be aware of the danger posed by leaving medications where young children can reach them. In recent years, the number of accidental overdoses in young children has increased by 20 percent," Dr. Dan Budnitz, director of CDC's Medication Safety Program, said in a CDC news release. "A few simple steps -- done every time -- can protect our children."

Any vitamin or medicine, even those you buy without a prescription, can cause harm if taken improperly, the CDC warned.

All medicines and vitamins should be stored in a place that's too high for children to reach or see. Always put medicines away after you use them. Never leave them out on a kitchen counter or a sick child's bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.

Make sure safety caps are locked after you use medicines. If it's a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear a click.

Teach children about medicine safety. Never tell children that medicine is candy to get them to take it, the CDC stressed.

Ask visitors and houseguests to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.

Be prepared for emergencies. Program the poison control number (1-800-222-1222) into home and cellphones.

"Even with improvements to packaging, no medication package can be 100 percent childproof," Dr. Richard Dart, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, said in the news release. "Poison centers receive calls every day about young children getting into medicines without adult supervision; that's why we encourage all parents and caregivers to follow these simple steps to ensure their child's safety."

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers more tips on how to protect children from poisoning caused by medications and other substances.

Robert Preidt SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Dec. 13, 2011

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