One of the biggest problems that parents experience year on year is children who inadvertently access prescription medications. However, this problem need not be as excessive as it is, if parents were to observe a few safety tips and measures when storing their medications.
If you have a certain medication that you need to take on a daily basis to treat a condition, imagine what might happen to someone who takes it without having that pre-existing condition, someone that is half your size. Sadly, this scenario is one that too many parents know well, and their children have suffered the ill effects.
However, many years of parents campaigning for the prevention of poisoning in the home have led to more and more parents making their kitchens childproof and tucking their medications away safely. However, this problem is a serious one and the medications that children get hold of are not just prescription meds. It is not uncommon for children to accidentally take a lethal dose of cough syrup.
Tips For Medication Safety
There are some tips that parents can use to ensure their children are safe in the home, and these should be rigidly adhered to.
- The first course of action for parents should be going through their homes with their children’s line of vision in mind. If you walk around the house on your knees, you will see things very differently than you usually do, and may notice medicines that your child can access. The best place to store medications is in high or sealed places that your child cannot access.
- Close caps correctly. One of the biggest problems when you’re a parent with things to do is that you tend to leave half closed medications out. When taking medications, make sure you close the childproof cap all the way, so that your child cannot access it. If the medications come in a blister pack, pop them out and put them in a childproof bottle.
- Never lose track of your medication. When you’re in a rush, as many parents are, you may be too busy to put everything away in the morning. However, when it comes to medications, you need to take special cognizance of where they are at all times. If you don’t put your medications away correctly, your children can access them.
- Fully inform your kids about medicine. Many parents will tell their kids that vitamins and medications are pieces of candy, to try and encourage them to take it. However, if you tell your kids that medication is candy, you are encouraging them to take any and all medications, even the ones you don’t want them to.
- Prepare your children. It is the lack of being prepared that is the biggest problem in many cases. Parents do not talk to their children about medications and they do not give them the numbers they need to dial in an emergency. Part of this preparedness is also ensuring that your child’s caregivers know who to contact in an emergency.
- Throw away old medicines. If your medicine has expired, throw it away. There is absolutely no reason to keep expired medications in your house and the more you have, the more potential danger there is to your children.
Older Children And Younger Children
If you think that your teen knows better than to take stray medications lying around the house, then think again. Just as you need to protect your younger children accidentally swallowing medications, you also need to keep your older children safe. Start by having honest and frank conversations with your older children, including what it may mean to them to take drugs. Explain to them that taking drugs does not just involve shady deals in back alleys, but that even prescription medications can be dangerous. Talk to them about how much they already know about medications. You might find that they know more than you think, or that they have misconceptions about medication that they have picked up from untrustworthy sources.
When talking to your teens about the misuse of medications, be sure to mention any drug related incidents you have heard of. You might be surprised to know that for many kids, taking medications they know nothing about is a common occurrence and they often do so with encouragement from their friends. Your job as the parent is to ensure this does not happen, since if something goes wrong, they could die.
When it comes to younger children, medication that looks like candy is a huge danger. When children see medicines that look appealing and tasty, they assume that they are candy, but the effects of them taking those medications could be deadly. You also need to talk to your younger children about what these medications could do to them and be honest about the medications’ effects. This prepares them for any influences they may feel as they grow up.
Keep Those Medicines Safe
If you need to think through how you will safely store medications in your home, start by making a list of all of the ways you can ensure your medication is kept away from your kids.
- Firstly, set a date to organize your medications. If you start off your month with an organized medicine cabinet, you can throw out expired medicine regularly and you will be able to keep track of what you have and what you don’t. This reduces some of the risk of medications going missing.
- Make sure your medications are in one place. If you have some medications in the kitchen cupboards and some in the bathroom cabinets, you won’t be able to keep track of where the medications are going. Also ensure that you separate the medications for different family members. This will avoid any mistakes in your morning medication routine.
- Try to keep medications in their original boxes, so that you know what they are, what the contra-indications may include and how to react if they are mistakenly taken.
- Don’t share medications. If your child has a prescription for an antibiotic and your other child falls sick, you will need to give them an antibiotic of their own.
- Keep Medications Hidden. If you feel the risk of medication being available is too high, consider locking your medication away. Get a medication lock box. This way you can ‘hide’ medication and know that your children are safe.
If you are about to throw medications out, also ensure that you dispose of them properly. Just throwing them into the garbage means they are still potentially accessible, while emptying capsules or destroying tablets makes it harder to rescue medications and misuse them. Some pharmacies will even offer take back programs that allow you to bring in old medications and dispose of them safely, so that you never again have to worry about them being misused.
Change Your Attitude
There is a significant lack of knowledge when it comes to parents who should be protecting their children from medications. One of the problems that drug councils the world over have identified is that those parents who should be employing all of the practices mentioned above, are in fact sticking their proverbial heads in the sand and refusing to admit that there is a problem, however, for all parents who have any form of medication in the house, their children are in danger. The more that children know about these medications and the more they know about their effects on the body, the better equipped they are not to give in to peer pressure or to make a mistake. If you want to avoid having your toddler eat prescription medications of keep your teenager away from the painkillers when they have a simple headache, you need to change your attitude.
Many parents refuse to admit that there may a problem that they need to deal with, and this is when problems begin. By keeping an open mind, parents can ensure that their children are safe.
What Could Go Wrong?
If you want to take the first steps and talk to your children about what could go wrong with prescription medications, you first need to have a good idea of what medications are dangerous and what could go wrong.
- Over the counter medicines – this category includes headache pills and cough syrup. Though taking one or two aspirins won’t hurt your teenager, they need to know that taking a whole bottle could kill them. Similarly, a spoon of cough syrup won’t hurt your toddler, but if they drink the whole bottle, thinking it is a sweet treat, they could go into shock or become violently ill.
- Prescription medications – there is no need to expound on the fact that prescription medications should only be taken by the intended user. However, if you leave your asthma medication lying around, your child may think it is a toy and make themselves very sick. Even hormone medications can change your child’s health.
- Household goods – one of the problems with making medications safe for children is that parents don’t think outside the box. Did you know that one of the most popular trends amongst teenagers is huffing aerosols? This does make teenagers intoxicated, but may elevate their heart rates to such a degree that they have heart attacks. Similarly, even household bleach and other toxins can hurt your children, so keep them out of reach or locked away from little ones and talk to your teens about these products.
- Medications from friends – many of us have been in a situation when we were offered drugs, cigarettes or alcohol from friends. As a child or teen, kids may not always have the best judgment and instead of saying no, say yes when offered medications. Because they don’t know what they are, they do not know how they will react and these medications may kill them. Imagine what might occur if your child who is allergic to penicillin takes medication containing the drug? They may die almost instantaneously.
For parents, speaking to their children and to those who watch over them frankly and honestly is the first step in ensuring they do not get hurt by medications. The next step is keeping the medications away from them, especially in the case of small children.
Education for parents is vital and to benefit from this, you may need to join a community group in your area, or go to a support group. Your experience and the experiences of others will help you keep your children safe, and do the same for others. You might even consider taking your children with you, so that they can experience first hand the dangers that taking medications may involve.
If you can, try to organize a talk at their school, or for younger children, a guidance counselor to visit their school or daycare to educate them about medications. Education is vital if you hope to avoid situations where your children may be in danger. It is also vital that you teach your children what to do in an emergency. If you are not available for whatever reason and your child watches his or her sibling ingest medication they shouldn’t, they should know what emergency numbers to dial and how to help their siblings.
Watch out for your children’s best interests by educating them, educating yourself and being more cognizant of where your medications are, so that you can prevent household incidents from occurring. If you take the steps necessary to keep your children safe, you are setting an excellent example for them, and for others in your community. You can prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring by changing your attitude.
Remember, lock up your medications and keep them safe all in one place. Ensure you talk to your children about medications, both over the counter and prescription and ensure they know the dangers of certain household items. Make your children ambassadors for household health by educating them and giving them the opportunity to educate others. You can make a big difference to how your children see your home and medication and change their impression of household safety. You can only do this though, if you change your own attitude and start to educate yourself, and your community about medication safety tips.