Children are naturally curious. And while we generally consider that one of the most beautiful aspects of childhood, it’s also one of the biggest sources of gray hair for their parents and caregivers. Curiosity can get children into some seriously dangerous situations, including one of the most common: medication and vitamins.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 60,000 children end up in the emergency room every year due to access to a parent’s vitamins or medicines. Clearly, it’s a widespread problem.
While accidents do happen, there are precautionary measures you can take to keep your kids safe around vitamins and other medications.
Keep Medicines Out of Reach and Out of Sight.
This is the most important rule. If your children can’t access your medications and supplements, then their risk will be significantly reduced. When choosing a place to store medications, remember that toddlers love to climb, so if your hiding place is accessible by climbing, you’ll probably want to pick a different spot.
- Use a high cupboard space in the kitchen!
Medications should also be kept out of sight. Young children are curious and bright colored bottles and the rattle sound of pills are irresistible.
If you can’t keep you pills high and out of sight, consider purchasing a locked box to keep them in. It may seem like a hassle, but your child’s safety makes it worth the effort.
The safe location you choose only works if you actually use it: be sure to put the medication back in its place immediately after you use it. Every time! It doesn’t matter that you’ll be taking another dose in a few hours; store it until you need it. The more you minimize your child’s access to the medication, the safer they’ll be.
Read (and Understand) the Labels
Keep prescription medication strictly for the use it was prescribed. That may go without saying, but it can be tempting to reuse a prescription-strength steroid cream on a rash, rather than an over-the-counter hydrocortisone, for example. But beware. Your prescription exists for a specific reason, and you should not reuse a medication without a doctor’s consent.
Similarly, read the instructions on every over-the-counter medication you buy and be sure to follow all the guidelines. This includes:
- Dosage amounts.
- How often to administer.
- How to spot any adverse reactions.
Don’t rely on your instincts! Understand the medicine. Know its side effects and its purpose before you give it to a child.
Use Childproof Medicine Bottles
Most medicines are distributed in bottles with childproof caps, or “safety” caps. It shouldn’t be difficult to find medicines in these bottles. They usually come standard, but sometimes not. When this happens, immediately put those into a container with a safety cap, or lock them in a box.
When closing these childproof lids, be sure to tighten them completely. Some types of lids can actually screw partially on without engaging the safety. Take that extra second to be sure the lid is all the way on. You’ll know the lid is safely sealed by a small click, or simply by not being able to turn the lid any further.
Of course, even childproof bottles are not foolproof. Store all bottles, childproof or otherwise, high up and out of reach.
Use the same precautions for vitamins and supplements as you would for medication
Vitamins and supplements may not require a prescription, but that doesn’t mean you can safely relax your vigilance. Vitamins and supplements can have serious affects on children. The formulation for adults can be too much for children’s bodies. Vitamins and supplements can sometimes interact with medication. If the child is taking prescription medication, this could be an added risk. Finally, it’s possible to have allergic reactions to some supplements, and here, too, the adult-sized dose could make that worse.
In short, apply all the same rules to vitamins, herbal remedies, and supplements that you would to prescription and over the counter medications.
Teach older children how to be safe around medicines.
Older children may be able to reach or access your storage spaces, so it’s important to communicate safe practices to them. Teach them that while medicines are meant to help our bodies, they can also be dangerous to our bodies if used in the wrong way or in the wrong amounts. Teach them only to take medicine from a parent, guardian, or trusted adult.
Moreover, the CDC recommends that you do not tell your children that medicine is candy in order to compel them to take it. This could result in confusion about when and how to take medication, which could be dangerous, especially when many liquid medications are formulated to taste like a treat.
Throw away prescription meds when you’re finished
Sure, it’s tempting to have a bit of your own pharmacy on hand, but it’s much safer to completely destroy any leftover prescription medication when you’ve finished treatment. Every time you keep an old prescription, for any reason, you add one more layer of potential danger in your home for your children. Celebrate your recovery by trashing the leftover medicine!
Important note: it’s not always the best to simply flush your old meds down the toilet. The FDA has recommendations on the best way to throw away your old prescripts.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Keep the number for poison control both programmed into your phone and also posted somewhere in your home (like the fridge) for babysitters. Don’t hesitate to call if you suspect a child may have consumed medication or vitamins. They are there to walk you through the situation and provide the best response for the situation. By the way, poison control is also there if you accidentally administer the wrong dosage of medication to your child, as well.
One of the most important steps you can take to keep your children safe in the home is to prevent medication-related accidents.
Fortunately, prevention is fairly simple: implement a few good practices in the home and know who to call if you have questions.