When used properly, medications are an invaluable asset to our daily lives. As families grow and medicine cabinets expand, however, we must be extremely cautious in how they’re used.
Just this year, the FDA released a warning about the dangers of using Nyquil—which many families have in their homes—to perform a social media stunt. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can be harmful, and accidents happen. To help with safe medication use, we’re sharing some advice and reassurance:
PROTECT SMALL CHILDREN FROM ALL MEDICATIONS
The most obvious advice is to keep all medications away from young children. Flavorings added to children’s antibiotics, fever reducers, and vitamins to make them more palatable also make them more enticing. Data from the Poison Control Center shows that nearly half of all poison exposure calls in 2019 involved children younger than age 6, who are simply more likely to consume things on impulse. All medicines and supplements should be kept out of reach, including nicotine substitutes which are extremely dangerous to kids.
Protection also requires careful dosing when using pediatric products as advised. Remember that similar bottles, like name-brand and generic Tylenol for example, can have differing amounts of active ingredient per dose. Always check the dosing instructions on the bottle before giving.
ENSURE PROPER USE FOR OLDER KIDS
As children become adolescents, the challenge often transitions to making sure they don’t skip medications when needed! Even after your child is old enough to take medicine on their own, whether prescription or OTC, it’s not a bad idea to help them use it correctly. You can assist in establishing a routine for daily prescriptions, and make sure they use the correct medicines when they’re feeling unwell. Teenagers in particular don’t always want to share every headache or stomach upset, and they may conceal fevers or other problems so their lives aren’t interrupted. Give your attention to any symptoms requiring more than a single dose of relief.
AVOID KEEPING UNNECESSARY MEDICATIONS
Not every prescription is taken until it’s gone, and many adults stash away unused medicines “just in case.” This simple, common scenario explains how many drugs end up in the wrong hands. Perhaps an adult in your household had surgery and received opioid painkillers during recovery, or maybe your teenager changed their dose of ADHD medication and now you have leftovers of the old prescription. Whatever the case, it’s best to dispose of unused drugs safely.
To find a drop-off location for unused or expired prescriptions, visit the DEA’s convenient Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location search utility.
SHARE ALL CURRENT INFORMATION (AND CONCERNS) WITH YOUR PEDIATRICIAN
“If your child was given a prescription by their physician, but you’re concerned about dosage or side effects, don’t hesitate to contact their office,” says Dr. Greg Robson at Oldham County Pediatrics. “Likewise, we want to know about any over-the-counter medications or vitamins our patients are using, whether daily or as needed, including holistic remedies. We won’t use this information to chastise parents. Rather, we want to make the best and safest recommendations for our patients.”
Don’t forget to update your primary care physician about:
- New medications from a specialist, including dermatology prescriptions
- Allergy relievers
- Probiotics or immune support supplements
- Sleep aids, such as melatonin
- Medicines used during illness, including fever reducers, cough suppressants, and “rescue” medications for asthmatics
FINALLY, GET HELP IF NEEDED
The benefits of medication should always outweigh their hazards. If any medicine has been used inappropriately under your supervision, whether on purpose or by accident, get help. The Poison Control Center is a fantastic resource available 24/7/365, and any information they collect is to give proper advice and record important statistics. Contact your doctor for monitoring use of routine products, and always call 911 for any signs of harmful ingestion.