Child Accidental Medication Overdose

Accidental Overdose Meds

Meg McCabe, Injury Prevention Coordinator, Boston Children’s Hospital

While we might feel the safest in our family home, the home is also where the most unintentional injuries occur. Unintentional injuries are the day-to-day “accidents” that children, adults and the elderly are at risk of. Some unintentional injuries that occur in the home include burns, falls, drowning, suffocations and poisonings.  According to the Center for Disease Control, 47% of all injuries occur in the home and 50% of all injuries of children happen at home. While the home may pose a threat for all sorts of injuries, the majority of emergency room visits by children are a result of accidental medication overdose. This is mostly likely to happen when a child ingests medication that they find lying around the house within reach of their curious hands and mouths.

According to a study done by Safe Kids Worldwide, approximately 160 kids go to the emergency room every day as a result of accidental medication overdoses. In 2013 alone, 60,000 kids were seen in the hospital for ingesting items like prescription drugs, pain relievers and vitamins. In most cases, these medications were left in places accessible to young children such as unlocked cabinets, on the floor, in purses, diaper bags and pill boxes. Some kids can even find their way into “child proof” pill bottles. Unfortunately, childproof drug packaging is generally not enough to keep children safe. Of these 60,000 children, the majority of incidents happened when the kids were left alone, away from adult supervision.

When a young child explores the nooks and crannies of their home, it’s easy to understand why these ingestions occur. Some pills and liquids are colorful and even smell or taste good- they can easily be confused as candy or juice by little ones. This is why it is important to protect your children and grandchildren from accidental overdose by keeping these items locked and out of reach or “up and away.” It is crucial that adults put medicine away immediately after using them. Do not leave medications out in the open.

Another way to prevent accidental overdose of medications is to purchase baby-proofing items that will prevent children from accessing hazardous materials and medications. For instance, sliding locks on lower cabinets can prevent accidental overdose. Purchasing a medication lock box is also an option, which will safely store medications in a locked container that requires a key or combination code to open.  Keeping medications “up and away,” utilizing baby proofing strategies, and implementing vigil adult supervision is the safest way to prevent accidental overdose in children.

Parents, education plays an essential role in your child’s safety. Be sure to educate your child’s grandparents on medication safety so they may also take the appropriate measures to protect your children within their home.  When your child is old enough, be sure to talk to them about medication safety too.

Finally, it is important to always be prepared for an emergency. Post the poison control number (1-800-222-1222) on your refrigerator and save it into your mobile devices.

Boston Childrens Hospital Harvard Child Care Health & Wellness Safety