Child Safety: Keeping Medicines Out of Reach

Medicines are meant to help make you feel better. They also can help treat a medical condition. But if medicines aren’t taken exactly the right way, they can be harmful. This is especially the case with children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 60,000 young children go to the emergency room each year because they got into medicines while their parents or caregivers were not looking. That’s why it’s so important to prevent your children from reaching your medicines.

Path to improved safety

The best way to ensure your child’s safety is to keep all medicines out of your child’s reach and sight. This includes prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and vitamins. There are other things you can do, too. The following tips will help you childproof your medicines and keep your child safe.

Pick a place your children can’t reach.

Find a place in your home that is too high for your child to reach or see. Walk around your house and decide on the safest place to keep your medicines and vitamins. Remember that some children can climb. They may use the toilet or countertops to reach high places. So locked cabinets are the safest place to keep your medicines and vitamins.

Put medicines and vitamins away every time.

Always put medicines and vitamins away every time you use them. This includes medicines and vitamins you use every day. Never leave them out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside. You might need to give your child medicine again in a few hours. Even then, put the medicine away after you use it. Do not leave it out because of convenience.

Teach your child about medicine safety.

Tell your child what medicine is. Explain that you must be the one to give medicine to your child. Don’t tell your child that medicine is candy or tastes like candy to get him or her to take it. Don’t let your child play doctor with empty medicine bottles.

Tell guests about medicine safety.

Ask houseguests and visitors to put purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them up and away. Ask them to keep medicines out of sight when they are in your home. And be sure to keep your purse, bag, or coat with medicines in it stored safely away from your child, too.

Hear the click to make sure the safety cap is locked.

Always use the safety caps that are supplied with medicines. Be sure to relock the safety cap on a medicine bottle after using it. If the medicine has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click. But remember that even though many medicines and vitamins have safety caps, children may still be able to open them. Always keep your medicines and vitamins stored safely in a place where your children can’t reach or see them.

Things to consider

You may take every step you can think of to keep your medicines away from your child. But accidents can happen. You need to be prepared in case of an emergency.

Call your poison control center at 800-222-1222 right away if you think your child might have gotten into a medicine or vitamin. If you are not sure, call them anyway. Program the number for the poison control center into your phone so you can have it available when you need it. Make sure to post the number in your home where babysitters or other caretakers can find it. Immediate treatment is important. Be sure to call poison control right away and follow their instructions.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How can I keep medicines away from my child?
  • Can vitamins or supplements hurt my child?
  • What should I do if I think my child has gotten into medicine?

Resources

Information adapted from “Put your medicines up and away and out of sight,” a patient information booklet published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This and other publications are available online.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medication Safety Program