An Alarming Number of Kids Overdose on Medicine Each Day
About 160 kids end up in the emergency room every day as a result of accidental medicine overdoses, according to a new report from Safe Kids Worldwide, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.
The report released this month says 59,000 children were seen in ERs across the country in 2014 after ingesting vitamins, pain relievers, and/or prescriptions drugs they found on the ground, in pill boxes, in cabinets, in a purse or diaper bag, or on countertops within reach.
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Pill boxes were one of the worst culprits, with 23 percent of kids overdosing after getting into them. Since the number of families that have a grandparent living with them has skyrocketed—4.8 million in 2014 compared with 2.2 million in 1980—it's far more likely these organizers will be found in homes today.
Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, conducted an experiment with some toddlers on "Good Morning America" to show how "child-proof" may not mean as much as we previously thought. In the video, one 3-year-old was able to pop open a pill box in just under 10 seconds, and a 4-year-old was able to open a child-resistant bottle with just a little tinkering.
To help prevent an overdose in your home, Besser recommends keeping your meds someplace out of reach, like a high cupboard or locked box; requesting child-resistant packaging at the pharmacy; taking your medication when your children are not around; and reminding visitors to do the same, especially visiting grandparents.
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Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, says parents and caregivers should be the first line of defense in preventing medicine overdoses.
"Whoever is watching over that child at that moment and that day has the responsibility of keeping all medicine out of the reach of children," she told ABC news.
But even with good supervision, accidents can still happen. Carr urges parents to take a few moments today and plug the Poison Help Line into their phones: 1-800-222-1222. In an emergency, it will put you in touch directly with experts on call 24/7 to help.