Keeping Kids Safe Around Medications



You know your child’s doctor’s name, but do you know the family pharmacist? Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals, and there’s always one available in your neighborhood, especially on weekends or when the doctor’s office is closed. Have you ever been confused about how much medication to give your kids? What the difference is between a teaspoon and a tablespoon? How you can keep your kids safe around medications in your home?  A pharmacist is there to help!

When you’re worried about sick kids, remembering what their doctor told you can be hard. Your pharmacist can help remind you exactly how often to give your kids a medication, and for how long. They check for medication interactions and potential hazards every time you fill a prescription, which is why using just one pharmacy is important. Pharmacists also can answer questions and make appropriate recommendations for over-the-counter medicines.

Confusion about teaspoon and tablespoon measurements when dosing liquid medications results in many mistakes and overdoses each year. The American Pharmacist’s Association has called for an end to the use of teaspoons and tablespoons in medication dosing and recommends using only milliliters instead, a much easier and more standardized way to measure liquids. Pharmacists can provide a cup or oral syringe with milliliter measurements when they dispense the prescription. They also can show you how to use it, if you’re still unsure. Most pharmacies offer flavoring services as well, to help the medicine go down a little easier.

With those appealing flavors, the increased popularity of gummy vitamins for adults and the attractive colors and shapes of many other medications, making sure your children understand the difference between medicine and candy is more important than ever. Teach your children to recognize the differences between medications and candy and remind them to always ask before trying anything that might be medicine. Make sure they know that more medicine or more vitamins don’t always mean “more healthy!”

Poison control centers around the nation receive thousands of calls each year because of children’s accidentally ingesting medication and cosmetic items left within reach.  A number of these cases happen when families visit homes of relatives or friends who aren’t used to having children around. Childhood deaths from all medicines and household chemicals have declined since 1972, which was when child-resistant packaging was first required. That’s because it works! Always keep medicines in their original, labeled and child-safe containers.

The telephone number to the National Poison Control Center is 1.800.222.1222. Keeping it handy in your cell phone is a good idea.

Many pediatric medications are dosed by weight, so they are specific to the child for whom the doctor prescribed them. Don’t use medication prescribed for another child on a sibling or try to save unused medication “just in case.” Get a new prescription every time. Also, dispose of medications safely. Your best bet is to add coffee grounds or cat litter, seal them in a container and place in the trash. Flushing medications down the toilet is no longer recommended.

Antibiotics are powerful medications, but misuse of them has contributed to the development of antibiotic resistance—you’ve seen the news stories about “super bugs.” Ensure your children are finishing the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed. This will prevent any resistant microbes from staying alive and growing stronger. Ask your doctor whether your child really even needs antibiotics. Most common illnesses are actually caused by viruses and, as unpleasant as it may seem, just need to be waited out. Kids with high fevers, a long duration of symptoms or severe pain should always be seen by a medical provider. Your pharmacist can recommend the best options to relieve your child’s symptoms in the meantime. We look forward to serving the needs of your family and keeping you safe!

Lt. Quinn Bott, PharmD, is a pharmacist and officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. Born in Nevada, he attended pharmacy school in Massachusetts. He now lives in Missouri and works in Kansas.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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