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What every parent needs to know about keeping kids safe around medicine

(BPT) - Every year more than 67,000 children are treated in an emergency room for accidental medicine poisoning. That’s one child every eight minutes. Even more surprising is that in 86 percent of serious cases seen in emergency rooms, the child got into medicine belonging to an adult.

“Ask any parent, and they will tell you they store medicine where children can’t get them,” says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “But every minute of every day the Poison Control Centers get a phone call about a medicine scare involving a young child.”

To find out what is causing this disconnect, and to understand what could be done to fix this problem, Safe Kids Worldwide examined data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Poison Control Centers, and spent time talking with moms.

“What we found is that while parents generally put medicine up and away from kids, they might not be thinking of pills stored in purses, vitamins left on counter tops or a diaper rash remedy near a changing table,” says Carr.

The study, “An In-Depth Look at Keeping Young Children Safe Around Medicine,” reveals some eye-opening facts. In 67 percent of emergency room cases, medicine was in a spot the child could easily reach, such as in a purse, on a counter or on the ground. Medicine belonging to a relative, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent, accounted for 43 percent of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning.

“Curious kids can get into trouble fast,” Carr says. “It takes only a few seconds for children to get into medicine that could make them very sick.”

Safe Kids offers parents and caregivers some tips for helping kids stay safe around medicine:

* Always put medicine and vitamins up and away and out of sight of children. When you need to give another dose in just a few hours, it may be tempting to keep it close at hand, but it is important to put medicine up and away after every use.

* Be alert to products you might not think of as medicine but actually are, such as diaper rash remedies, eye drops or antiseptic ointments. Make sure all harmful products are kept up and away from children.

* Ask guests to put purses, bags and coats where children can’t reach them. Many people store medicine in handbags and coat pockets.

* When your child is a guest in someone else’s house, be aware of medicine risks. Take a look around to be sure medicine isn’t within reach of your child.

* Buy medicine in child resistant packaging when possible. But be aware that “child resistant” doesn’t mean “child proof.” Given enough time and opportunity, some children will still be able to get into medicine in child resistant packaging.

* Always keep the Poison Control Center number at your fingertips, either by the home phone or programmed into your cell phone: (800) 222-1222.

To learn more about keeping kids safe around medicine, or for a video on medicine safety, visit

“Fortunately, there are simple things we can do to protect our kids from getting into medicine, even those kids who are masters at getting into everything,” Carr says.

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