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Packaging helps prevent children from overdosing from medicines at home

New educational program reminds parents to keep packaged medications ‘Up and Away and Out of Sight.’

Up and away poster
Up and away poster

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the PROTECT partners will host a live Twitter chat with national medication safety experts Dec. 14 from 1-2 p.m. Eastern time to answer questions about the “Up and Away and Out of Sight” educational program and keeping children safe from unintentional medication overdoses.

According to CDC, each year, one of every 150 two-year-olds visits an emergency department in the U.S. for an unintentional medication overdose, most often after finding and eating or drinking medicines without adult supervision.  To inform parents and caregivers about safe medication storage and what to do in case of an emergency, CDC, the Consumer Healthcare Products Assn. Education Foundation, and a coalition of partners are launching Up and Away and Out of Sight.

Beginning in the 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission required that most medicines have child-resistant packaging, a safety improvement that CDC says has saved hundreds of children's lives. However, child-resistant caps must be used properly.

The PROTECT partners are also working on innovative safety packaging specifically designed to limit the amount of medication that could be ingested by a child even if a child-resistant cap has not been replaced properly. A number of leading nonprescription drug companies have committed to incorporating product enhancements for pediatric liquid acetaminophen medicines. In addition, several over-the-counter medications are available in individual doses, which can limit the amount of medication that children could get into.

"Even with improvements to packaging, no medication package can be 100 percent childproof," warns Richard Dart, M.D., president of the American Assn. of Poison Control Centers. "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."

CDC’s Web site asks, “Interested in learning more about the PROTECT Initiative? Whether you are a pharmaceutical or packaging manufacturer interested in partnering with the PROTECT Initiative, a representative from professional or academic organization with an interest in advancing children’s medication safety, or for general questions about the initiative, please contact [email protected].”

Common-sense steps

"Parents may not be aware of the danger posed by leaving medications where young children can reach them. In recent years, the number of accidental overdoses in young children has increased by 20 percent," says Dan Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's Medication Safety Program. "A few simple steps--done every time--can protect our children."

These common-sense approaches all involve handling the packaged medications and include the following steps:

• Pick a place children cannot reach. Find a storage place too high for a child to reach or see. Any medicine or vitamin can cause harm if taken the wrong way, even medicine you buy without a prescription.

• Put medicines and vitamins away every time you use them. Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child's bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.

• Hear the click.  Make sure the safety cap is locked. If the medicine has a locking cap that turns, twist it until the click is heard.

• Teach children about medicine safety. Never tell children that medicine is candy to get them to take it, even if the child does not like to take his or her medicine.

• Tell guests about medicine safety. Ask houseguests and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are visiting.

• Be prepared in case of emergency. Program the poison control number into home and cell phones (1-800-222-1222).

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