A new study finds many accidental child poisonings are related to poor storage of medications—yes, even your daily pill sorter.

By Kristi Pahr
February 20, 2020

When we think of accidental child poisonings at home, a toddler getting into a bottle of bleach or toilet bowl cleaner might be the image we conjure, but as it turns out, poorly attended cleaning products aren't the only culprits.

According to data from the National Capital Poison Center (Poison Control), cosmetics and personal care products are to blame for the majority of poisonings of children under the age of 6, but poisonings from medications like analgesics, antihistamines, and cardiovascular drugs are among the most dangerous. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that poorly stored pills contribute to a staggering number of emergency room visits for kids every year—roughly 75,000 emergency room visits and 540,000 poison control calls in 2010 alone.

When child-resistant medicine bottles were made mandatory in 1979, the number of accidental poisonings decreased, but in the 2000s, when the use of prescription drugs increased so did the number of accidental exposures in children. The Pediatrics study found that 33.2 percent of accidental medication ingestions involved medications that had been removed from their original packaging. And that can lead to dangerous situations such as dropping pills or storing them in containers that aren't specifically child-resistant, like those ubiquitous daily pill organizers.

Despite the obvious convenience of pill organizers, especially for those who take multiple or different medications each day, many are not child-resistant. Removing prescription medications from their child-resistant containers, or leaving over-the-counter medications in their store packaging (many OTC medications are not required to be sold in child-resistant packaging) is risky for anyone who comes into contact with children.

Child-resistant or locking medication containers are available and lockable cases and bags can be used to secure daily organizers, ensuring that children stay safe and medication remains organized and accessible for adults.

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