Keeping Children Safe

 

Too close for comfort. A mother discovered that her infant daughter had been taking an allergy medicine instead of an antacid for a month. The baby's doctor had prescribed the antacid Zantac (ranitidine) syrup to help with spitting up and crying. When the mother called the pharmacy for a refill, she requested the same grape flavor of medicine that her daughter had been taking.

Out of the corner of your eye, you catch your toddler drinking from his older broter's bottle of liquid medicine. You quickly call the National Poison Control Hotline.* But when they ask you how much your child took, you frantically realize that you don't really know.

If you have young children or grandchildren, you are probably used to being on the lookout for danger in your home and the child's play areas. But a doctor's office or clinic might be an unrecognized source of danger, as one mother learned.

Some medical and dental procedures require people to remain still for a long time. This is almost impossible for young children. Medical procedures like certain X-rays, CT scans, or MRI tests can also be scary to children. To help, the doctor or dentist may prescribe a sedative for a child before the procedure.

In 2005, FOX 9 news in Minneapolis reported a tragic story. A 15-month-old child died after drinking the contents of a bottle that contained her heart medicine, Tambocor (flecainide). Since birth, the child's parents had given her three doses each day to slow her racing heart. But in a matter of minutes, the child was able to open the prescription bottle and drink all the medicine. The overdose of what was once life-saving medicine killed her.

A kindergarten student was wearing a Daytrana (methylphenidate) patch on his skin when he arrived at school. Daytrana is a medicine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition that makes it hard for children to control their behavior and/or pay attention.

A child's father went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for liquid amoxicillin, an antibiotic used to fight infections. The liquid form of this medicine starts as a powder that needs to be mixed with a specific amount of water by the pharmacist before use. By mistake, the pharmacist gave the child's father the bottle of medicine with just the powder.

Liquid medicines given in amounts less than 1 milliliter (mL) can be confusing. If a decimal point is overlooked, it can result in a 10-fold overdose. In one case, a mother picked up a prescription for Reglan (metoclopramide) syrup for her baby. Reglan is a medicine for stomach acid reflux.

Vaccines are made in different strengths for children and adults. But sometimes, children get the adult's strength, and adults get the children's strength by mistake. For example, two children less than the age of 7 received Adacel (Tdap), an adolescent/adult-strength vaccine to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).

If your child is taking a liquid antibiotic, notice how it smells. Chances are, the pharmacist had to add water to the medicine to make it liquid right before you picked up the prescription. On occasion, pharmacists have made mistakes when preparing these medicines.

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