Fort Worth, Texas,
07:01 AM

Accidental overdose of a child - mistaking pills for candy

The danger of leaving medication in reach of children

Imagine you are 5 years old. It’s a beautiful day and you are stuck in the house with a fever. Your wonderful mother gives you little orange tablets that taste like oranges. You think taking these little tablets that look a lot like M&M’s will make you feel better really soon. What a wonderful Mom! Then she leaves the bottle with the little orange flavored tablets on the table just a few feet away. What would you do? 

I was the child that decided if a couple of little orange things would make me feel better than the bottle of little orange things would get me well quicker and I could get back to playing with my friends. What I didn’t know was that there were enough tablets in that bottle to cause a very large overdose. After I took the pills, my mom noticed that I wasn’t responding to my name. I was nearly unconscious. So I was given a trip to the emergency room at our local hospital. I was fortunate that someone noticed and that it wasn’t something worse. 

A recent study in Pediatrics found that 640,000 emergency department visits were made in the U.S. from 2004 to 2013 because children were able to to get medication without adult supervision.

When I became a mother myself, I was very diligent in keeping medications away from little hands by keeping the medications in a high or locked cabinet. We can protect our children from an accidental poisoning at home by looking at things from their eyes. Everything that looks like candy is interesting to them.

Every year Cook Children’s receives more than 600 children due to poisonings. Seventy-five percent are medication related. Children can be accidentally poisoned by finding medication belonging to a friend or family member at their house or in their purse or bag. Or by getting into a cabinet that contains household cleansers like bleach or window spray. Remind your friends or family members to keep medication and household cleaners out of the reach of your children. Often Grandmother’s medication looks like candy, just like my little orange pills, or the cleanser bottle looks like lemon/lime drink.

Sometimes it’s as simple as not measuring a liquid medication correctly. Ask your pharmacist for a medication measuring spoon or oral syringe so you give the correct amount of medicine to your child. The spoons in your kitchen will not always measure the same amount as a medication spoon.

Also, make sure to keep the poison control number (1-800-222-1222) near your phone in case you need it.

Rosanne Thurman is director of Pharmacy at Cook Children's. Cook Children's pediatric pharmacists are available at the medical center to make sure your child's medicines are safe and effective.That includes helping parents understand what their child's medicine is for, the best times to take the medicine, the right dose, side-effects and any possible drug interaction with other medications that their children may be taking, such as other prescriptions, over-the-counter medications like cough syrup or antihistamines and herbals. They can even tell parents what food and drinks might cause an interaction.

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