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Toddlers and teens are most at-risk children for medicine poisonings
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 TOPEKA  – Last year 60 percent, more than 12,000, of the calls to the Kansas Poison Control Center involved medications, or pharmaceuticals. The Kansas Poison Control Center and Safe Kids Kansas want to remind all adults to keep medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) locked up, out of sight and out of reach of children. Parents should also talk to their teens about the importance of following directions on dosing for all medications. 

Nearly half of the calls to poison centers for children each year are related to medicine. Teens are also at risk for unintentional medicine poisoning. The percentage of 15-19 year olds experiencing a serious outcome is more than six-times greater than the percentage of 1-4 year olds. Teens in charge of managing their own medicine can make mistakes.

“There are about 10,000 emergency department visits a year for medicine overdose by adolescents self-administering over-the-counter medicine in the U.S.,” said Stefanie Baines from the Kansas Poison Control Center. “Examples include forgetting to take medicine and then doubling up, taking two medicines with the same ingredient, and taking the wrong medicine.” 

Medicines that ranked high in calls to poison centers that resulted in serious medical issues include those used to treat mental health conditions or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

“For children under age 4, the most common medicines kids get into are ibuprofen, multivitamins and diaper care and rash products, “ said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “It’s easy to think that these everyday over-the-counter items are not as dangerous but they can be very harmful if taken the wrong way. Iron and calcium in multivitamins can be poisonous if too many are taken.”

A 2013 Safe Kids study revealed that in 43 percent of emergency department visits resulting from young children getting into medicine, the medicine belonged to a grandparent, aunt or uncle. Most frequently, children get into misplaced drugs found on the ground, on the nightstand or in a purse.  

“It’s important for everyone to save the Poison Help number in your phone, 1-800-222-1222,” said Baines. “This is the fastest way to get an answer from an expert. It’s far better than going online to find help. It is even more important to take a few precautions now to prevent these frightening emergencies from ever happening.”

The Kansas Poison Control Center and Safe Kids Kansas encourages every family to take these steps.

Top tips for parents of toddlers

• Put all medicine up and away and out of sight, including your own. Make sure that all medicine and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. Consider places where kids get into medicine, like in purses, counters and nightstands.  

• Consider products you might not think about as medicine. Most parents store medicine up and away - or at least the products they consider to be medicine. You may not think of products such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins or eye drops as medicine, but they are and need to be stored safely.

• Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Proper dosing is important. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon or tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device. 

• Write clear instructions for caregivers about your child’s medicine. When other caregivers are giving your child medicine, write clear instructions about what medicine to give, when to give it and how much to give.

Top tips for parents of teens

• Check in with your teens and talk about medicine they are taking regularly. Even teens that need to take medicine daily may make errors in dose or dosing frequency, so it is important to communicate with them regularly about taking medicine responsibly.

• Teach your child how to read the over-the-counter drug facts or prescription label and the importance of following the directions. Be sure your teen knows that taking more than the recommended dose will not help them get relief any faster, and it could hurt them.

• Communicate to teens the importance of only taking medicine that is meant for them. Taking medicine that belongs to someone else or misusing medicines (even over-the-counter medicine) can cause harm.


• Save the toll-free Poison Help line number on your phone: 1-800-222-1222. You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. And remember, the Poison Help line is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine, concerns about plants, chemicals, carbon monoxide, bites, stings and more.