CCMH observes Nation Poison Prevention Week

Posted March 21, 2013 at 9:15 am

by Robin L. Miller, Pharm.D., CGP.

March 17-23 marks the 51st anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week, first established by Congress in September 1961. Cedar County Memorial Hospital, as a key provider of healthcare in Cedar and surrounding counties, would like to take this opportunity to remind the public about safe medication use and disposal. Among young children, 95 percent of medication-related poisoning visits to emergency departments are caused by a child ingesting medication while unsupervised and approximately five percent are due to dosing errors made by caregivers.

Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning today. Each year, more than 500,000 children under the age of five experience a potential poisoning related to medications. More than 60,000 children are treated in emergency departments due to accidental unsupervised ingestions each year. Currently, more children are brought to emergency departments for medications poisonings than for motor vehicle occupant injuries. Among young children, one of every 150 two-year-olds is being seen in the emergency department for medication-related poisoning. From 1979 to 2006, the poisoning death rate was cut in half, declining from 0.35 to 0.17 per 100,000 children. Yet, among all child poisoning deaths, the number attributable to medication increased from 36 percent to 64 percent.

Reasons for this increase in medication-poisoning are numerous:

• More medications than ever are in the home, especially prescription pain medication

• The fast paced lifestyles of today may prevent caregivers from immediately putting medicines away in a high, out of sight and locked location after every use

• A rise in multi-generational households in which children may have greater access to grandparents’ medications

• Working and single parents relying on multiple caregivers, who may not coordinate closely on the timing of children’s dosages

• Formulation of children’s medication that are designed to taste good but may entice children to take them when unsupervised.

Please remember these tips for Medication Safety:

1. Keep all prescription and over-the-counter medicines locked up, where children cannot see or reach them.

2. Store medications in their original containers and use child-resistant lids. Weekly/daily pill planners may be convenient but they are not child-resistant and it may not be possible to identify the medications, dose or directions for use if the original container is not readily available. Remember – nothing is child-proof!

3. Avoid expired medications. Discard any old, expired or unused medications in accordance with local or state recommendations. Check the expiration date before you buy or use a medication. Expired medication may be less effective and some may undergo chemical changes that may make them dangerous.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day from10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. This is a great opportunity to safely dispose of accumulated unwanted or unused prescription drugs. Please contact your local law enforcement agency for locations.

4. Read the label and follow the directions on all medicines. Remember to turn on the lights. If you are taking or giving medication in the early hours of the morning, make sure you can see… and think clearly.

5. Are children around? Take the product or medicine with you to answer the door or the phone.

6. Is it medicine? Call it medicine…not candy. Take your medicines where children can’t watch because they learn by imitation.

7. Measure with care. Always use a calibrated medicine spoon, dropper or dosing cup to measure the correct dose. Do NOT use kitchen spoons which can vary in sizes and may lead to an under dosage or over dosage. Underdosing may render the medication ineffective while overdosing may result in toxicity and unwanted side effects.

8. Do not share prescription medication. What is safe and effective for your 5 year old may not be for your 2 year old. Also, your husband’s blood pressure medication may not be recommended and may actually be dangerous for your brother who is visiting and forgot his medication.

9. Program the nationwide poison control center number (1-800/222-1222) into your phones. If poisoning is suspected, calling this number will reach professionals that offer fast and free confidential help in English and Spanish. Most poisonings are resolved over the phone. The number works from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Please contact Cedar County Memorial Hospital at 417/876-2511 with any questions about poisonings or medication safety as they observe National Poison Prevention Week.