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Are You Endangering Your Grandkids?

Don't unwittingly be part of a problem that lands thousands in the ER each year


(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)

Storing medicine, household cleaners, and other toxic substances out of kids' reach is clearly a must, but recent research has found that grandparents aren't as vigilant in this area as they should be.

In a new report called Keeping Kids Safe Around Medicine by Safe Kids Worldwide, of the 64,000 children treated for poisoning each year, 38 percent of them got into pills belonging to a grandparent.

"All it takes is that one exception — the time you leave a prescription on the nightstand or kitchen counter — and this is what's driving nearly half a million calls to poison control centers each year," explains Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.

Read on for five tips to keep the young adults in your life safe:

It Doesn't Take Much…

Even small doses of certain medications can be fatal to toddlers, says the report. Just one pill or a teaspoon of these medicines can kill:

  • Camphor, a common ingredient in vapor rub products
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, like amitriptyline
  • Oral hypoglycemics that treat type 2 diabetes
  • Anti-hypertensives, such as calcium channel blockers, that treat high blood pressure

(MORE: Prescription Drug Abuse — Commonly Abused Meds)

Little Kids Explore Everything

Curious toddlers and preschoolers are hard-wired to touch everything they can, and their pudgy little fingers often head straight for their mouth.

"Young kids may try to eat colorful pills or capsules because they think they're candy or they wonder whether a liquid medicine could be juice," points out Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatric injury expert and director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Don't Keep Pills at Kids' Eye Level

According to the Safe Kids report, the majority of grandparents who care for grandchildren described taking medication on a daily basis, giving kids more access than ever to prescriptions and potential poisonings.

Forty-two percent of seniors leave pills on the bathroom or kitchen sink, or on a counter or shelf, while 12 percent stash them on the nightstand or dresser, which means this danger may be lurking right at kids' eye level.

(MORE: Grandparents Can Be More Than Just a Baby-sitter)

Limit Their Easy Access

Be extremely cautious every time you handle medicine, whether it's your own or one you're giving to a child: keep it out of reach, even between doses, and never be tempted to lay a day's worth of pills on the kitchen table or keep them in your purse (your grandchild might dig in your bag for chocolate and come up with something dangerous instead).

"Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, but if pill boxes or regular caps are the only option, storing them up high or in a locked medicine cabinet (available at Amazon) is extremely important," urges Carr.

Know the Signs of Possible Poisoning

Little kids may not be able to tell you they swallowed a pill, so be aware of the signs of a possible poisoning.

"Symptoms can vary, depending on which medication was taken and how much, though you might notice drowsiness, hyperactivity, seizures or vomiting," explains Smith.

…And Don't Hesitate to Call for Help

Don't hesitate for a moment if you suspect you grandchild has accidentally taken medication — even if you find him on the floor playing with your pills (it could be hard to know if he tried one).

Dialing the Poison Control hotline at (800) 222-1222 is critical, but more than half the seniors surveyed in the report said they wouldn't think to use it. Most calls to this number result in quick care: trained nurses and toxicologists staff the line 24 hours a day and are able treat kids over the phone in 70 percent of cases.

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