Aug 10, 2017, 9:30:56 AM CDT Feb 3, 2023, 5:00:47 PM CST

Prescription for safety: Medication dosage, storage and more

Although medicines are prescribed to keep your family healthy, improper use can be very dangerous.

Mother looking at medicine cabinet Mother looking at medicine cabinet

Every year in the U.S., more than 60,000 kids wind up in emergency rooms because they were messing around with medicine — unsupervised. Medications typically have bright, happy colors, funny shapes, some even look and taste like candy, so why wouldn't kids be tempted to explore the medicine cabinet or mom's purse?

On an average, kids receive the wrong medication or dosage every 8 minutes. Parents, caregivers lead busy, distracted lives: Without taking the time to read proper dosage or warning labels, a kid's health can be jeopardized.

Here are 5 important tips to keep kids safe from medications:

  1. Safely store medications
    • Keep medicines out of reach, hidden from view; even over-the-counter medications / products you might not consider like vitamins, eye drops, cough syrups.
    • Kids get into medicine in all sorts of places: Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
    • Avoid storing medicine in easy access areas such as nightstands, dressers, tables, or kitchen counter tops.
    • Tighten medicine caps or choose child-resistant caps.
    • Visiting grandparents? Call ahead and tell them you're visiting with the kids so they can put away medications they may be taking.
  2. Administer safe dosages
    • Keep medicines in original containers with labels intact.
    • Use the dosing device that comes with medicine.
    • Don't give kids more than one medicine with same active ingredient as it could lead to an overdose or an adverse reaction.
    • Read labels, follow directions even if you've used medicine before; dosage directions can change.
    • Never give kids medicine(s) that is meant for adults.
    • Tip: Write the dates and times of each dose on a blank label (or Post-It-Note) and attach the label to the bottle. Cross off each dose after it's been given.
  3. Communicate with caregivers
    • Post clear medicine instructions on refrigerator or kitchen countertops.
    • Caregivers need to understand what medicine(s) to dispense, dosage and time frame.
    • Communicate when last dosage was given so kids don't receive prescribed dosage twice before scheduled time.
    • Leave important telephone numbers and contact information for emergency with caregiver.
  4. Safely discard medicines
    • At least once a year, dispose of expired or unused medicines. Many communities offer a medicine take-back program. Ask your pharmacist for suggestions or resources.
    • If your local trash service permits, dispose of medications yourself; pour medicines into a sealable plastic bag. Add water to pills to dissolve. Add coffee grounds or kitty litter to the plastic bag to absorb. Now it's ready for the trash bin.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that certain medicines are so dangerous they should be flushed down the toilet. See a list of medications that should be flushed.
  5. Talk to your kids about medication safety
    • Stress medicines are not candy and need to be taken with adult supervision.
    • Familiarize pre-teens / teens with key points of a Drug Facts Sheet Report and how to interpret a medicine label. A great resource for this topic is: Scholastic Medicine Safety
    • Explain the importance and dangers of: taking medicine meant only for you, using someone else's medicine or prescription and that misuse can cause harm, even with over-the-counter medicines.
    • As a safety measure, program the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222) into all your phones. NOTE: The Poison Help Line is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or administer medicine.
    • Use 911 right away if a kid collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing or can't be awakened.

Your child does not need to be a statistic. These simple steps can help ensure that very medicines made to keep your child healthy don't play a part in putting your child in danger.

Screen capture of family newsletter signup

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the Children's Health Family Newsletter.

Children's Health will not sell, share or rent your information to third parties. Please read our privacy policy.

Children's Health Family Newsletter

Get health tips and parenting advice from Children's Health experts sent straight to your inbox twice a month.

Childrens Health