According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), some of the medicines commonly used by older adults, even in very small quantities, can be deadly to young children. For example:
For 2001, the AAPCC reported that, on average, 30 children died in the US from poisoning, and hundreds more suffered serious harm, especially children under age six. Poison exposures typically occur when the natural curiosity of children and the habits of older people combine to create a hazard. For example, because seniors are more likely to take several medications during the day, they are also more likely to leave medicine near the bedside, by the bathroom sink, or on the kitchen table -- all within reach of little hands. Grandparents are also likely to store medicines in containers without child-resistant caps, like cups, reminder containers or coat pockets.
The AAPCC offers simple steps grandparents can take to reduce the risk of unintentional poisonings.
1. Keep all medicines and vitamins in containers with child-resistant caps, not in cups or reminder containers. After using the product always re-secure the child-resistant closure.
2. Be sure medicines, cleaning products, and other household chemicals are out of reach and locked away.
3. Conduct a medicine cabinet inventory and flush outdated medicines down the toilet. Rinse liquid from bottles before discarding.
4. Be sure that medicines and household products are secured and out of a child's reach before answering the phone or doorbell, or take the product with you.
5. Children love to imitate adults. Take your medicines out of the child's view.
6. Keep foods and household chemicals separated. Cleaning fluids, detergents and other everyday household products should be stored away from foods.
7. Keep products in original containers -- never put paints, solvents, lamp oil or pesticides in bottles, glasses or jars customarily used for food.
8. If a child does swallow medicine or chemicals -- or if you suspect a child has swallowed medicine or chemicals, call the poison center at (800) 222-1222 immediately! The number should be posted and visible near your phones.
Pharmacists, nurses and physicians at local poison centers are available to answer questions about drug interactions and medication safety with a call to 1-800-222-1222. Poison center experts are available round-the-clock, seven days a week. Poison information is also available at the AAPCC web site, www.1-800-222-1222.info.