A coalition of groups has launched an awareness campaign designed to cut down on the risk of accidental medication overdoses among young children, which health officials say has increased by at least 20 percent in recent years.
The program sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association Education Foundation, and other partners encourages parents and caregivers to follow some simple steps to protect children as young as two years.
“Parents may not be aware of the danger posed by leaving medications where young children can reach them,” said Dr. Dan Budnitz, director of the CDC’s Medication Safety Program. “A few simple steps – done every time – can protect our children.”
The awareness campaign called “Up and Away an Out of Sight” reminds parents to do just that – to store all medications in places that children simply cannot reach or get to as the first line of defense against the possibility of accidental ingestion. Another crucial step, the campaign notes, is to make sure that all medicines – and even vitamins that can cause harm if taken in the wrong way – are put away right after use. Nothing should be left out even if it has to be used again in a few hours.
The campaign also warns against telling children – as many parents and caregivers do – that medicine is like candy “to get them to take it.” Instead, children should be taught about the dangers of medicine, according to press release from the CDC. Parents are also encouraged to know how to respond in case of an emergency and to program the national poison control number, 800-222-1222, into their cell or home phones.
In addition to its public campaign, the groups have also partnered privately with the PROTECT Initiative, which also aims to reduce accidental overdoses, to work on designing new childproof packaging for medicines. A number of manufacturers of over the counter nonprescription drugs have “committed to incorporating” some changes into their packaging, the CDC release said.
But Dr. Richard Dart, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, warns that even with packaging design changes nothing can be made “100 percent childproof.”
“Poison centers receive calls every day about young children getting into medicines without adult supervision; that’s why we encourage all parents and caregivers to follow these simple steps to ensure their child’s safety.”
As part of its new campaign, the CDC and its partners plan to host a live Twitter chat on medication safety issues on Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.