Over the past two article of this series, you have learned that medication errors do occur among children, and you’ve learned how to help protect children from this. But, if a medication error, adverse effect or poisoning does occur, here is what you should do:
1. Stay calm.
2. Call 911 if it is an emergency and the victim has passed out or is not breathing. In an overdose situation, if the victim is awake, call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Try to have the following information available:
a. How old is the victim and how much does he or she weigh?
b. What time did the problem occur?
c. What did he or she take? (Have the bottle available. They also will ask you if you know how much the child took.)
d. Where did the problem happen?
3. Stay on the phone and follow all instructions.
4. Do not use home remedies, and do not use a product called “ipecac” unless so directed by a doctor.
Here are a few more tips for improving medication safety in your home:
Put the poison control number on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone.
Keep all drugs in childproof cabinets that young children cannot reach.
Don’t take medicine in front of children because they like to copy adults.
Don’t call medicine “candy.”
Never mix medications in a bottle of milk or formula, and never put undiluted liquid medication in a baby bottle for the child to drink.
Always use an approved measuring device when administering medications. Household devices should not be used to measure medications.
Make sure you understand how often a medication should be given to your child, including how many hours should be allowed between doses. For example, “three times a day as needed for cough” does not mean that you can give three doses within one or two hours.
Do not use medicines to sedate your child unless the doctor has directed you to do so.
Don’t let guests leave drugs where children can find them, such as in a purse, backpack, coat pocket or unlocked suitcase.
When you take medicines, do not put your next dose on the counter where children can reach them.
Never leave children alone with your medications. If you are taking medicine and you have to do something else, such as answer the phone, take young children with you.
Don’t leave your medication out after use. Put them in a childproof cabinet as soon as you are done with them.
Don’t throw away medication patches or pills where children can find them. Used medication patches should be folded in half (so the sticky side sticks together) before discarding.
Remember to keep all medications secure from unauthorized access. Even if medications are out of reach of young children, other people - teens, relatives or visitors in your home can and do look in cabinets or on kitchen or bedside tables for drugs that they might want to pilfer and sell or “abuse.”
Barbara Kahn is a pharmacist and clinical staff educator in the Blount Memorial pharmacy department.