EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 7, 2014

Keeping children safe around pills and medications

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — A chronic diagnosis is seldom easy for the person receiving the news or his or her loved ones. Oftentimes, a new diagnosis can lead to an array of medications being prescribed. Though such medications can be a key component of successful treatment, extra pills in the home can pose additional hazards to children and even elderly residents who may inadvertently get into unsecured pills.

Antidepressants, opioids, steroids, anti-convulsants and radiopharmaceuticals may be prescribed to treat pain and other side effects of disease. When taken in the right doses, these medicines can help patients withstand and ultimately overcome their disease. In the wrong hands, the same drugs can prove poisonous, especially to young children.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 500,000 parents and caregivers per year call a poison control center because a child accidentally ingested medicine or was given the wrong dose. In 2011, 67,000 children were treated in an emergency room for medicine poisoning. Based on emergency room visits, many children come in contact with these medications in places other than the medicine cabinet. Kids may find spare pills on the ground, in a purse or bag or on a counter or nightstand.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 160 percent increase in poisonings in children from 1999 to 2009. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital says that kids ages five and younger are the most likely victims of prescription drug poisoning. In homes where there is an abundance of medications being used to treat cancer or other illnesses, diligence is needed on the part of adults.

Childproof bottles are seldom enough. Very often adults forget to close the lids properly. Tenacious children can sometimes figure out how to get lids off of bottles even if they are touted as childproof.

Parents taking medication might want to employ some additional safety measures in order to protect young children.

Do not advertise medication use to your children. Take pills away from curious eyes so that youngsters are not tempted to try Mom or Dad’s medicine, which for all intents and purposes, looks like candy to a child.

Store medications high up, ideally in a locked cabinet. Remain careful when returning pill containers to these locked cabinets after use.

Use individual-dose cases, many of which can be locked with a key or a combination code. This can protect against spills should the case fall on the floor.

Ask for medications to be prescribed in blister packs that are more difficult to open.

Dispose of any expired medication or pills you no longer need so there are no extras lying around the house.

Dispose of pills in an outside garbage receptacle so that children or pets cannot find them and swallow them.

Never store pills in a container other than the prescription container or a medication dispenser.

When cancer treatment necessitates the taking of additional medications, it becomes even more important to protect children from accidental — and sometimes intentional — ingestion of medications.