It is 11pm on a wintry February night. A mother gives liquid Tylenol to her sick child. Exhausted, the mother returns to bed and then remembers the Tylenol is still on the bathroom counter. She makes a mental note to move it before her child wakes up, but it is in a convenient spot if she needs to get up to administer it again.
Fast forward 14 hours when the child comes to the mother and informs her, “See Mama, I gave myself my own medication.” Sure enough, the child’s face has all the tell-tale signs of swallowed sugary syrup.
The mother calls Poison Control right away. Poison Control directs the mother and the child is ultimately fine. That mother was me, a pediatrician. This was a good lesson that you should practice what you preach, and EVERYONE needs a lesson and reminder on poison control.
The focus of the Safe Kids Worldwide campaign for March’s Poison Control Week is medication safety. Medications, including over-the-counter painkillers, can be found in virtually every household in the country.
More than 50 percent of calls to poison centers involve kids 5 and younger and nearly a quarter of those calls are related to medication poisoning. That translates to more than 60,000 children each year – or approximately 165 kids per day – being treated in emergency departments due to accidental medication poisoning.
Medication Safety Tips
- 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.
- Buy child-resistant packages when available and securely close them every time.
- Remind babysitters and visitors to keep purses and bags that contain medicine up and away when they visit.
- Never entice a child who resists taking medication by saying it is candy. A child could accidentally overdose by ingesting medication mistaken for a tasty treat.
- If your child spits out or vomits medication, do not give another dose. Call your doctor for instructions.
- When disposing of medications, make sure they stay out of children’s reach. Put the child-resistant top back on and secure the bottle further with tape or enclose it in a bag.
- Never give adult medications to children.
- Always read and follow the label when giving medicines to children.
- Never give your child multiple medicines with the same active ingredient.
- Wait the appropriate period of time between doses and do not increase the dosage because your child seems sicker.
- Program the poison control center number, 1-800-222-1222, into your home and cell phones so you have it when you need it.
Disposing of Medications
When medications are out of date or no longer needed, it’s important to dispose of them properly, but how?
Don’t flush medicines down the toilet. Instead, look for a pharmaceutical waste disposal program in your community that accepts leftover and expired prescriptions, and over-the-counter medicines.
The UW-Extension maintains a list of Medicine Collections in counties across Wisconsin on their Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center website, while the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provides information about how to dispose of medicines, including medical sharps, mercury thermometers and even what you can donate – Household Pharmaceutical Waste (WDNR)
In Dane County, Safe Communities of Madison-Dane County provides a list of MedDropTM locations and instructions for how to prepare medicine for disposal – Safe Communities MedDrop Program.
You can also check with your City, Town or Village’s offices for regulations on medicine disposal, and whether there is a scheduled drop off location near you.