Keep children out of the medicine cabinet

By Katherine Miller


CROWLEY – In a disturbing new study done by the U.S. Government, findings show that the leading cause of accidental poisonings among American children can be found in the family medicine cabinet.

More than 71,000 children 18 and under each year are seen in the emergency room for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, indicated the reports.

Over two-thirds of emergency room visits are, in fact, due to these types of accidental poisonings, which is more than double the rate of childhood poisonings caused by household cleaning products, plants and the like, said the team for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Medication overdoses are most common among two-year-olds,” said lead researcher Dr. Daniel Budnitz, director of the CDC’s Medication Safety Program in the division of health-care quality promotion. “About one out of every 180 two-year-olds visit an emergency department for a medication overdose each year.”

“The number of children seen in the emergency room due to overdoses that are unintentional or medication errors is remarkable,” added Dr. Robert Geller, a professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and medical director of the Georgia Poison Center.

Geller also explained that many more people reach out to poison control centers for help than shown at the hospital. “Right now, poison centers are having their funding cut. If poison centers are less available, the number of children going to emergency rooms will rise.”

Upon a phone call placed to the Louisiana Poison Control Center, the system provided information that these services are no longer available in our state.

During the study conducted by Budnitz and his team used data from 2004 and 2005 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to make estimates about the number of emergency room visits that result from unintentional medication overdoses of children in the aforementioned age category.

“One of the most common medications involved in accidental overdoses is Tylenol,” said Tee Rosenbaum, owner of Gremillion’s pharmacy in Crowley.

Gremillion’s recently began distributing written warning notices for their customers about recent findings by the FDA. These guidelines state that “many people might be taking acetaminophen in three or four preparations. Be aware. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your prescription meds contain acetaminophen then look at the ingredients in the label of what you use at home. Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol and Advil, are widely used and relatively safe, however, large doses are dangerous. Liver damage is the major cause for concern. Alcohol and acetaminophen is a very bad combination. Vitamins can be dangerous that way also!”

The CDC is currently working with over-the-counter drug manufacturers to encourage the implementation of new “passive” safety caps, which do not require that the user do anything but close it to work, or they allow only a measured dose to be dispensed each time.

Joan Morgan of Gremillion’s offered, “Keep all medications out of reach of children in a high cabinet. Even though they may be childproof, there have been instances in which children have succeeded in opening childproof caps. Medications today may seem like candy to children, as they may be bright and colorful.”

To this statement, Julie Graf, pharmacist at Gremillion’s, added, “Many times, when children visit grandparents or others who are not used to having small children around, they see medication that may have been left out and are accidentally ingested. Parents should remind other adults about picking up all medications before the children visit.”

Following concerns voiced by the FDA, the dangers of misused cold medications for infants and young children have also been the topic of recent debate, and have, therefore been voluntarily withdrawn from the market.

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