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Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications Pose High-Risk for Poisoning in Children

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Typically, parents worry about their children getting into household cleaning supplies. Now parents should also worry about the security of the medicine cabinet: the Centers for Disease Control recently found that twice as many children are accidentally poisoned by prescription or over-the-counter medicines than with household consumer products.

The study, published in the August issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that more than 70,000 children under 18 visit emergency rooms yearly from unintentional medication overdoses. While most of the children took medications without their parents’ knowledge, 8% became ill because their parents accidentally overdosed their child. Moreover, more than 75% of the medication overdoses were in children under 5.

The most common medication in poisoning cases was acetaminophen, followed by opioid painkillers and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications. Dr. Daniel S. Budnitz, the senior author of the study and an epidemiologist with the CDC, says that while parents should keep medications safely away from children, packaging improvements are also important. Specifically, he is concerned that safety tops were first introduced in the 1970s and haven’t improved much since.