More kids than ever before are victims of accidental poisoning
from medications. Between 2001 and 2008, emergency departments saw
a 30 percent rise in pharmaceutical exposure, and it's no wonder.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more
than half of all Americans take at least one prescription
medication. The elderly average as many as three.
Add to this the growing popularity of vitamins and other
supplements, and it's easy to see why so many children are getting
In many homes, kids don't have to look far to find medications
because parents unwittingly store their pills in clear view next to
the bed or beside the bathroom or kitchen sink, forgetting that the
medicines are actually poisonous to their kids. Even
over-the-counter medications can cause serious injury. Aspirin has
been linked to a condition called Reyes Syndrome, which can cause
brain damage and death, and high doses of acetaminophen (the active
ingredient in Tylenol) can cause permanent liver damage.
Children as young as 9 months old have been accidentally
poisoned by taking medications, so the American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends that parents begin to focus on poison
prevention when a baby is 6 months old.
Simple tips for safety
When safeguards fail
If a child does ingest something, it's important to call poison
control immediately by dialing (800) 222-1222 from anywhere in the
U.S. Poison Control is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Have the name of the medication and, if possible, how much you
think the child ingested. Poison Control offers fast, free,
confidential help in English and Spanish and can walk parents
through emergency first aid. Parents may avoid an unnecessary trip
to the emergency department because most poisonings can be safely
resolved over the phone.
Find out more information at safekids.org or poison.org.
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of
pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and
LaRabida Children's Hospital. She also is assistant professor of
pediatrics at the University of Chicago. Email her at
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.
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