I just read an interesting article in the Journal of Pediatrics that show accidental drug poisonings in children are now on the rise! Calls to poison control centers about children ingesting drugs had dropped between 1990 -2000, but rose 22% from 2001-2008, despite an only 8% increase in the childhood population during the same time period.
The data was obtained from The National Poison Data System. Over 500,000 children less than 5 years of age had accidentally ingested medications and more than 50,000 were seen in the ER.
So, it seems that our children are “accidentally” getting into more drugs whether it is an OTC product, or prescription medications. Prescription medications such as narcotics for pain, sedatives, sleeping agents and cardiovascular medications accounted for the majority of ER visits and also accounted for 76% of hospital admissions and 71% of the significant injuries. There were 66 ingestion related deaths.
Medication overdoses due to dosage error seem to be stabilizing with increased efforts to educate and simplify dosage instructions on most OTC products. But as more and more drugs seem to be available in households, efforts to prevent accidental ingestions are paramount.
It always seems that children somehow can open “childproof caps” and many parents and grandparents are on multiple medications which they then put in the convenient daily pill dose dispensers which typically are not “childproof”. Older siblings who may also be on medication for ADHD may also not be as diligent about putting their medications up and away.
Once a child is walking, the medicine cabinet needs to be up and out of reach, and should also have a lock. Toddlers are cunning and as they watch you open the cabinet everyday and take out pretty pink, yellow and blue pills, they may be “plotting” how they too can get to those pretty colored candies! It is amazing that even though they may taste bitter and disgusting to us, a toddler can eat a whole bottle, despite the fact that they won’t touch their dinner.
At the same time, many of the newer drugs may only take 1 or 2 pills to cause significant morbidity in young child.
Check out your house and see if you have pill bottles that are not put up and locked up. Throw out unused and leftover medications so that there are actually fewer medications in the home. Talk to grandparents and older children as well about “childproofing medications”.
At the same time drug companies may consider other ways to limit access to drugs, maybe with blister drug packs? What about the packaging that CD’s and remote control toys come in, no one seems to be able to open those?
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.