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FDA Issues Warning Over Fentanyl Patches and Dangers to Children

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Fentanyl patches can be a lifesaver for sufferers of chronic pain. By placing the patch on the skin, patients can obtain relief from their pain from the strong synthetic opiate contained within the patch for up to three days. However, this can also spell big trouble for little hands that might get a hold of a fentanyl patch. Children are often curious and like to touch things, or worse, put things in their mouth that shouldn't be there.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a new warning last month to caregivers, parents, and medical providers of the dangers of fentanyl patches to children. Because children are often curious, tossing a used fentanyl patch in the trashcan could result in deadly consequences. Similarly, a partially detached patch on an adult’s skin could come lose and attach to a child. If a child ingests or places a fentanyl patch on their skin, their breathing can slow and ultimately lead to death. Chewing and ingesting a fentanyl patch is most deadly—doing so releases three times the amount of opiate compared to when it is placed on the skin. Fentanyl patches also retain their potency for a long time, with a patch worn for three days straight maintaining 50 percent of the fentanyl.

According to the FDA warning, there have been 26 fentanyl patch accidents since 1997 that resulted in 10 deaths and 12 hospital emergency room visits, with most of the cases involving children. The FDA urges parents and caregivers to properly store and dispose of fentanyl patches to avoid such tragedies. Specifically:

  • Keep fentanyl patches in a secure location that is out of children’s reach. A toddler might think a fentanyl patch is a temporary tattoo or sticker and place it on their skin.
  • Consider covering the patch with an adhesive film to keep it in place on your own skin.
  • Throughout the day, make sure that the patch is still fully attached to your skin.
  • Dispose of fentanyl patches by folding the pad together so that the sticky sides touch and flush it down the toilet. The FDA acknowledges that there are concerns about flushing prescription medications down the toilet, but maintains that the risks to immediate family members from accidental exposure to the patch are more dangerous.