Keeping Children Safe

 

Families take medications and vitamins to feel well and to stay well. But did you know that more than 60,000 young children end up in emergency rooms every year because they get into medicines when their parent or caregiver isn’t looking?

Recently we wrote about the tragic death of a 2-year-old child due to an accidental overdose of fentanyl after putting a used patch in his mouth. This was not the first time we wrote about a young child unintentionally gaining access to a powerful medicine. For this reason, we have often emphasized the importance of keeping all medicines up and away and out of reach of young children. But what about older children and teenagers?

Swallowing unintended objects and substances is a pretty common problem among sick patients. For example, patients recovering from anesthesia in a hospital or receiving other sedating medications may not be thinking clearly. These patients may rely more on instinct and grab what they believe has been left for them by their caregivers. However, even patients with a clear mind may simply trust that anything a nurse or physician leaves at the bedside is “safe” or “ready to use.”

We heard a story about a 13- month-old boy who died after swallowing pills from a prescription medicine bottle. His parents had given him the bottle to play with as a rattle, believing he could not open the child-resistant cap.

ISMP received a report from a mother stating that her child had experienced seizures while in the shower. Upon discovery, the family immediately called for emergency help. The paramedics transported the 11-year-old child to a nearby hospital for examination, scans and x-ray imaging, which all showed negative results. Next, the doctors performed blood testing for the child, which revealed an elevated blood-alcohol level. The elevated alcohol level in this child’s system was likely the cause of the seizures.

A disturbing trend is occurring in some communities across the US: the “de-nursifying” of schools. As school districts grapple with tight budgets, many nurses have been laid off, and those that remain have been asked to cover multiple schools within the district.

Liquid medicines, especially those required for small children and pets, are often measured using oral syringes. Sometimes, there is a device that comes with the syringe called an adapter. This allows the oral syringe to directly attach to the bottle, eliminating the step of pouring the liquid into a cup for withdrawal by an oral syringe.Using a syringe adapter is a convenient way to accurately measure and administer liquids. However, depending on the actual product, parents should be aware they are not always childproof.

Many parents specifically ask their child's doctor for a prescription for an antibiotic when their child has a cold or sore throat. In fact, almost 75% of children's antibiotic prescriptions are related to these conditions. However, most of these infections are caused by viruses that do NOT get better with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.

A kindergartner was taken to the hospital on the first day of school after a teacher's aide accidentally gave him another child's medication. The 5-year-old boy became drowsy after he was given Catapres (clonidine), a blood pressure medication sometimes used to treat children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The answer is "YES" if you have someone age 12 to 25 living in your house. According to a 2006 survey recently released by the federal government, approximately 5 percent of people in this age group have used over-the-counter (OTC) cough or cold medicine to get high.

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