(Written by Noble McIntyre) With so much focus on keeping our kids off illegal drugs, we sometimes forget the dangers lurking in our own medicine cabinets at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70,000 children are treated in emergency rooms every year due to accidental medication poisonings, and over 80 percent of them occur because the child discovered and then consumed medications while unsupervised.
Some might argue the solution is to simply watch your children more closely, but parents know that sometimes all it takes is turning your back for a moment, and your child is getting into something he shouldn’t.
Preventing your kids from accidentally ingesting medications takes more than a watchful eye. Here are a few steps you can take to keep your kids safe around prescription medications at home.
- Lock it Up
Storing your medications in a medicine cabinet is not enough to keep them out of your kids’ hands. Children are resourceful, and even those who are still too small to reach the cabinet on their own will find a way. They’ll climb onto the counter, push a footstool over, whatever it takes to satisfy their curiosity and see what’s inside that forbidden cabinet.
Once they get into it, don’t count on child-proof caps to keep them out of the bottles. Those are effective to a degree, but maybe you’ll forget to close a bottle completely one day. Or maybe your child will just get lucky and be able to open a bottle. Many pills with their bright colors and coatings can look like candy to a child, and they won’t hesitate to try them to see what they taste like.
Rather than keeping your medications in the bathroom cabinet—or on any other high shelf where you think they should be safe—store them in a metal box with a lock that can only be opened with a key.
Then store the key in a very safe place, whether on the key chain you have with you at all times, or in some other location out of sight, and out of reach of your child. Even if your child stumbles upon the box, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to open it.
- Dispose of it Properly
Contrary to popular belief, flushing old medications down the toilet is not a proper way to dispose of them. Other than a very short list of medications for which flushing is recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most medications should be either thrown away in the household trash, but only after mixing them with unpalatable materials such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds, and sealing them in a plastic bag.
According to Rehabs.com that is a comprehensive guide connecting those struggling with addiction, some communities also offer medication take-back programs where you can turn in your old medicines, and the city or county will properly dispose of them for you.
Another problem with flushing medications, though, is that most pills float, and if you don’t ensure they’ve all been washed away, your child may come in after you, find a pill floating in the water, and ingest it. And simply throwing a medication bottle into the bathroom trash with pills still inside it is just asking for trouble.
That’s right at a small child’s level, and as parents know, kids do get into everything whether it’s trash cans, toilets, or those medicine cabinets. Dispose of your medications properly to keep them out of little hands and mouths.
- Talk About It
This may be a difficult discussion to have with a child under the age of five, but as your child gets older and more mobile, it’s important to have conversations about the dangers around the house. Even if you’ve child-proofed every cabinet, explain that cleaning solutions are not brightly colored fruit drinks, that soaps and shampoos only go on your body, not in it, and that medications are never to be touched, even the ones meant for your child.
As time passes, the conversations can become more detailed and frank. But make sure your child understands that pills are not candy, and should never be touched, played with, or eaten. And when your child reaches the teenage years, these talks will be more important than ever.
Some of these precautions may seem like overkill, or at the very least, an inconvenience. Just imagine what you and your child would have to go through if you didn’t take steps to keep medications out of reach, and the unthinkable did happen. Many of the children treated in emergency rooms for medication poisoning recover, but some don’t. Isn’t a little inconvenience worth your child’s life?
About the author: Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, and a noted Oklahoma Paxil lawyer. Noble lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, and their three daughters, ages 13, 12, and 8. Noble’s daughters are active in gymnastics, soccer, swimming and cheerleading in addition to their school work. His wife is active in their school and currently serves as President of the PTA of the grade school and Vice-President of the PTA of the Jr. High. Noble is active in charitable giving in his community, each fall he helps organize a turkey drive that donates 1,000s of turkeys to hungry Oklahomans.