Tips about Storage of Medications to Keep Your Family Safe

How and where you keep your medication can make a big difference when it comes to medication safety.  According to the CDC, every year, two million people end up in the hospital due to drug-related injuries.  This might include medication errors, adverse drug reactions, allergic reactions, or overdoses.  First, let’s talk about some statistics.  

Safekids.org reports that 1.34 million calls are made to poison centers each year for children

49% are medicine related.  Safekids.org analyzed 547,042 of those calls and found that 81% of those calls were for kids getting into medicine that was not for them. 

Interestingly (and alarmingly), 53% of total calls that were for children ages 1 and 2 years old. 

The most common medicines that children under 4 get into are ibuprofen, multivitamins, and diaper care and rash products.  

child getting into medicine drawer

Teens Self Medicate

Teens from 15-19 years old who have serious outcomes from medicine poisoning is 6 times greater than for 1-4 year olds.  It is reported that there are 10,000 ER visits each year for over-the-counter medicine overdoses by self-medicating teens.  The most common medicines that result in serious medical issues for teens include those used to treat mental health conditions or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Teen taking medicine

The risk is real – safe medication storage at home is necessary at ALL times

Given that so many households have medications, it is critical that households have medication storage guidelines that will prevent unwanted access to medicines.  It is especially important to prevent unwanted access to medicines that pose a serious risk in low doses. 

Follow these tips for safe storage of medications:

  • Keep prescriptions and over-the-counter medications up and away, out of children’s reach and sight.  It is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that households store medicines in a locked cabinet, closet or safe.  Medicine safes are available for purchase and use in the home, but any type of robust locking compartment would serve the intended purpose of limiting access, not just a dedicated medicine safe.  Medicines can also be safely stored in locked fire boxes, gun safes, or any other device that is designed to limit access and resist tampering.  
  • Out of reach of curious climbers.  In about half of the over-the-counter poisoning cases, the child climbed on a chair, toy, or other object to reach medicine.
  • Know what’s in the house. Ask family and guests if they have medication in their purse or luggage so that you can put it away safely while at your home.
  • Remember, child resistant packaging is not childproof.  So put medicine away immediately after every use, even if you need to give another dose in a few hours.
  • Keep track of the number of pills/strips you have in your medication bottle so you can know how many a child may have ingested.  
  • If you are traveling, pack medications in your carry-on luggage in case your luggage is lost or delayed.  It will also keep unauthorized persons from accessing your medication.  Keep medicines in their original, labeled containers.  Take a lock box for your medicines or consider using a room safe in your hotel if available.
  • It’s important to store medications at the appropriate temperature so it is safe from extreme heat and cold.  If you need to keep medication cool or frozen while in a car or airplane, you can use ice packs or other cooling accessories.  There are travel bags made specifically for this purpose that are allowed by the TSA. 

Keep your medications stored securely so that your pets don’t accidentally get in to your (or their) medications that are in your purse, coat, luggage, or on the counter.  The FDA reports that nearly 50% of all phone calls to the Pet Poison Helpline are regarding pets that ingests medications intended for people, both over-the-counter and prescription.  What you think might be “out of reach” of your pet may, in fact not be.  Cats are good jumpers and a dog with a good nose can devise clever ways to reach that pill vial at the back of the cabinet, especially if the medication is flavored.  It’s important to remember to keep pet medications away from children.  Children might think that pet medication is candy, especially a chewable or liquid product.  Some liquid pet medications are made to smell like banana or strawberry and may be especially attractive to children.  

Why lock up medications?

Fact:

70% of children who abuse prescription drugs admit to getting them from family or friends.

Fact:

Over 3 million U.S. teens abuse prescription drugs. – (Reference: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration . 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:  National Findings)

Practice Safe Use and Storage of Medicines

Practicing safe use and storage of all medications and supplements can help parents and caregivers keep children safe from unintentional overdoses. 

Be prepared in case of an emergency.

  • Call your poison control center at 888.222.1222 right away if you think a child might have gotten into a medicine or a vitamin, even if you are not completely sure. 
  • Program the Poison Help number into your home and cell phones so you will have it quickly when you need it. 
medicine cabinet

For more information on medication safety for your home, visit: 

https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/index.html/

https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/basics.html

https://www.who.int/initiatives/medication-without-harm

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