Drugs Home > Medication Safety and Poison Prevention for Children

As a parent, you know how hard it can be to keep a curious child from getting into medications and even household cleaning products. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help prevent a poisoning emergency -- and possibly save your child's life. If an accidental overdose does occur, or even if you think you may have miscalculated your child's medication, call the Poison Center hotline.

The Importance of Medication Safety and Poison Prevention for Children

Medication overdose in children is a persistent and serious public health problem. Medication poisoning in small children now exceeds household cleaning product ingestion as the primary cause of pediatric poisoning. Over 70,000 children are brought into the emergency room yearly because of an accidental medication overdose.
More than 95 percent of overdoses that occur in children under the age of five are unsupervised accidental ingestions (when a child accidentally "gets into" a medication), with less than 5 percent resulting from caregiver errors, such as when a parent accidentally gives a child too much medication. This problem has been on the rise the past few years, but is easily prevented.

Harmful Drug Events in Children

Children under the age of five are two times more likely than older children to be taken to the emergency room due to a medication overdose. Two-year-olds are especially at risk. In fact, every year, 1 out of every 180 children this age pays a visit to the emergency room due to an accidental ingestion. Most of these emergency room visits occurred because the child consumed medication while unsupervised. 
Toddlers are mobile, curious, and like to put things inside their mouths, putting them at an increased risk for medication poisonings. Also, since many medications have a similar appearance to candy, children are highly likely to consume them, leading to an accidental overdose. Due to the small body size of children, it only takes a small amount of a medication for the outcome to be potentially fatal.
Furthermore, medications that can be lethal in one or two doses are commonly found in households with toddlers. For example, iron poisoning is one of the most common fatal poisonings in small children.
Iron is a common product found in most households. It comes in various forms and is often found in prenatal vitamins, which most pregnant moms have on hand. Iron tablets often look like candy and can come in various colors such as red and green, making them more appealing to a small child. As few as 10 tablets of iron can be lethal to a 22-pound child.
Be sure to be extra cautious with iron products in the home; storing them in a lockable medical box can help prevent this type of overdose.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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