Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Keeping Kids Safe: Proper drug storage in the home (tips on preventing access)

Your Home is Your Child’s First PlaygroundFive Essential Drug-Proofing Steps to Keep It Safe

Welcoming a new baby into your home is an exciting time. After months of anticipation, planning and dreaming, you suddenly find yourself at home, with total responsibility for another human being. And you often wonder if you’ve thought of everything to keep your child safe. As a pharmacist and a mom, I encourage you to do something that often slips new parents’ minds: drug-proof your home. I have some simple steps to take and habits to develop now to help prevent an accident later on. Time passes quickly - before you know it, your baby’s crawling everywhere or has morphed into a curious toddler climbing places you never even considered possible.
Let me share a personal – and painful – story. As a pharmacist I routinely gave customers the standard advice to “keep medicine out of reach and use child-proof caps.” When I became a mother, I quickly realized these steps are not good enough. This advice did not address how easy it is for children to find medicine through normal exploration. You see, I thought we had our medicine stored securely. But after my own daughter, at age two, climbed to the top of a counter, opened a child proof cap and drank an entire bottle of children’s ibuprofen, I realized I was living under a false sense of security. Fortunately, the drug she chose to drink was a relatively safe medicine; however, right next to it was one that wasn’t. We were incredibly lucky.

Often it seems impossible to keep something out of a determined child’s reach. Studies show that nearly all children, ages 1-5, who present to emergency departments for medication overdoses, took the medicine when no one was watching. They were left alone for just a moment, or the adults were socializing, not paying as close attention, or perhaps weren’t concerned since they were up high and/or in child-resistant containers.

The good news is it is easy to take steps now to set your kids up for success and make it difficult for an overdose to take place. Here are five simple steps to help prevent an accident later:

Step 1: Explore your home from your child’s viewpoint and search for unsecured medicine, as well as, means by which your child can access medicine.

You must get down on your hands and knees (yes, I’m serious) and pretend you’re a crawling infant or climbing toddler. Look for places that could potentially become an exciting toy chest. Purses left on floors frequently contain medicine - often in non-child resistant containers. Low drawers often contain “forgotten” items because they’re inconvenient to use regularly. Clean them out and remove any medicine, even items you wouldn’t necessarily think of as potentially dangerous.

Pay particular attention to bathroom and bedside drawers.

Drawers, bookcases and cabinets often turn into stairs, allowing little ones to reach things just out of their grasps or to explore items mistakenly believed to be out of their reach. Develop a habit of scanning to ensure all drawers are closed. Maybe even consider installing drawer locks, as a further deterrent.

Chairs and step-stools take on a new meaning and are often used in combination to get where they want to go. My 2-year-old daughter pushed a chair to our kitchen counter, hauled a step-stool onto the countertop, opened a door and grabbed a bottle of on top shelf (in the time it took to fold a load of towels).

Trashcans are quite attractive. Never discard medicine in the trash inside your home. Even used patches can contain enough medicine to harm your child if put in their mouths.

Step 2: Use child-resistant caps on your medicine

Use child-resistant caps, however, never rely on them to keep your child away from what’s inside: child-resistant does not mean it’s childproof. Most children can eventually open a child-resistant cap, often in less than a minute. Consider their purpose to be to potentially deter your child long enough for them to get caught in the act.

Also, be certain to actually close the lid properly after each use. A partially closed child-resistant lid offers no more deterrence than a non-child-resistant one.

Step 3: Clean out your medicine regularly

Schedule recurring times at least once a year to clear your home of all medicine expired, or for one reason or the other you know you’ll never use. Keeping these medicines on-hand means they are still available for an accident to happen. The less medicine in your home, the safer it is for your children.

Step 4: Find a home for your medicine and lock it up

Designate a cabinet or closet as your go-to spot, install a lock and use it. Easy access for you often means easy access for your children.

Beware of the popular plastic cabinet locks. They are often not tightened securely due to frustration using them, plus, children often watch parent’s movements carefully and soon learn how to mimic and open them themselves.

We live in a world where accidentally swallowing very small amounts of some medicines literally could cost your child their life. It’s often surprising to know that it’s not just prescription medicine - it’s also over-the-counter medicine, and even ointments. I strongly advocate treating all medicine as potentially deadly and locking them all up securely so you don’t have to keep up with, or investigate, each drug. You simply develop the habit of “this is just what we do with our medicine in our home.”
Step 5: Post Poison Control’s number - 1-800-222-1222 - in an easy-to-find location and don’t hesitate to use it!

Since you can’t possibly watch your child every single second, it’s crucial to take steps to lessen the chance of an accidental drug poisoning. Realize that even the most thorough drug-proofing will not make your medicine 100% childproof. Nothing replaces adult supervision and consistent habits. My goal is to help give you a safety net for those times when you turn your back - just for a moment.


About the Author:
Susanne Ballard, RPh, aka the PharMomAssist, is a veteran pharmacist and mother of four daughters dedicated to drug safety and children's health. Her passion for helping families drug-proof their homes was ignited in 2004 when her 2-year-old daughter ingested medicine the family thought was safely stored. Susanne is also a wife, teacher, entrepreneur, artist, and president and CEO of Bella Life Endeavors, Inc. Learn more at

This is a guest post!!



Alan (Omega Doom) said...

Great tips! I don't have kids of my own, but I am willing to share the tips I've learned from you with my coworkers who do have young kids of their own. I am so surprised by your 2 year olds ingenuity. I'm glad she wasn't seriously harmed. Thank you Susanne and Katie!

Susanne Ballard said...

Alan,I thought I had a pretty good grasp on kids, then I had my own and have been pleasantly surprised (and, alternatively terrified) at how SMART and clever they can be at such young ages. So, I try to prepare for the worst and expect the best and never underestimate their ability to surprise (or amaze) me. Thank you for sharing these tips!

Chris said...

Parents must always make sure that medicines are kept in places inaccessible to their kids to avoid possible risks. Your tips are all helpful.

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Chris said...

Wonderful tips in storing your medicines. Now, your readers will not have any difficulties in preventing their children from having access to these drugs.

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herbal products said...

There should be an allocated medicine cabinet placed in areas where children can't reach. This avoids potential problem in misusing the drugs.

document storage said...

There are medicine bottles that are child-proof. If you reuse this kind of bottles and put your medicine here, it will be a great help.

Laura Lane said...

I'm not as careful with older kids.

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