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Hey guys. I wanted to give a quick intro to this post. This is a very vulnerable post, but I could not stand by and say nothing. I understand that I may receive some hateful, judgmental comments, but I am writing this to help prevent someone else going through the same scary situation that I did. Remember I am a human and just like everyone else, I also make mistakes. If you think this information about child medicine poisoning could help someone else please make sure to share it.
This past week has been a crazy stress-filled week. In a nutshell we have dealt with my car getting caught in a flash flood which has resulted in me no longer having a car. We came back from a short vacation to find that our electricity was knocked out by a storm for almost 48 hours and we lost all of the food in our refrigerator. On Tuesday my husband woke up with a fever, chills, and body aches. As you can expect he was sent to get a COVID-19 test. As a result of this I was sent home from work and had to get a test as well. (Thankfully, our tests came back negative.) To say we have had a crazy week is an understatement. I wanted to give you a bit of backstory as I proceed to tell you what happened that spurred me to write this unplanned post.
Our daughter, Grace, is in the middle of teething and if you have ever had a teething toddler you will understand how difficult that can be. At times she is happy playing with her toys and in an instant, she is crying hysterically with her hands in her mouth. Not only is it exhausting for her but it is exhausting for us as her parents as well.
One day after working from home all day, my husband and I decided to take our daughter for a ride in his truck. This is one of the only activities we can do outside of our home since we are under quarantine until our test results come back. Throughout the day she had been playing off and on with a pill bottle. Yes you heard me right, a pill bottle. An over the counter allergy pill bottle to be specific. I know what you are thinking. Katie, isn’t that dangerous? Why would you let your daughter play with that? I would NEVER allow my child to do that. Yes. I hear you. It is dangerous. My eyes were opened, especially after what happened that day.
Let me tell you a little bit about why I let her play with it. You see she loves rattles and toys that make noises. But that day she had found a pill bottle on our table that completely enthralled her. She didn’t know what was in the bottle, only that it made fun sounds. Remember when I told you that we have had a rough week and that she has been teething? As you can imagine we were tired. And it seemed at the moment that allowing her to continue to play with the bottle was the easy choice. So much easier than taking it away and listening to her cry. This was the first mistake.
In our minds it was okay because we were right there with her as she played with the bottle shaking it up and down. We also knew that the bottle had a child-resistant safety cap. Our supervision and the child-resistant safety cap gave us a false sense of security. This was our second mistake.
Our day progressed fine. She played with the bottle off and on throughout the day. Nothing terrible happened. That is, until we took our drive. This is when I had one of the scariest moments happen to me as a mother.
We had just started our drive when I heard something that sounded different in the back seat. It sounded like our daughter was blowing into a cup. I knew that she didn’t have an open cup in the back seat with her though. She uses a sippy cup. The only other thing she had back there with her was… the pill bottle. I instantly ripped my seat belt off and climbed to the back seat while my husband was driving. I grabbed the now OPEN bottle from her hands. My heart was racing as I looked into the bottle at all of the unassuming small white allergy pills. I quickly opened her mouth, did a finger sweep and looked to see if I saw any residue in her mouth. I took a sigh of relief when I realized she had not ingested any of the pills by the grace of God.
What I want you to know is that this can happen to anyone. For my daytime job, I serve in the public health field. Specifically, the substance use/misuse prevention field. That’s right. I educate others on the dangers of drugs. I have been in this field for the past four years. It. Happened. To. Me. With all of the knowledge I have I still made a mistake. I am ashamed.
According to a Healthline article found here, over 50,000 kids end up in the hospital due to medicine-related poising. Safe Kids Worldwide says that half of all accidental poisonings involved child-resistant packaging. Half. 50%. You guys, in the four years that I have been in the substance use/misuse prevention field, I had never heard this. If I haven’t then I am assuming many of you have never heard this either.
Even though I ashamed I am still writing this post because I NEVER want this to happen to another family. I was lulled into the false idea that it was not too dangerous since my husband and I were right there and the bottle had a child-resistant cap. This child-resistant cap didn’t stop my 17-month old daughter from opening it.
Now that I have told you what happened to my family, I want to let you know how you can prevent this from ever happening to yours. I hope you will take my suggestions and not make the same mistake I made.
So how can you prevent an accidental child medicine poisoning and keep your child safe? You can start by implementing the tips below.
Out of Reach/Sight
Place all medications out of reach AND out of sight. It is so important to place it out of sight not just out of reach. It takes no time for a curious child to push a chair to the counter and grab a pill bottle. Take the extra time to consistently put your medications away after you take them.
Lock Them Up
A safer option than storing medicine in a cabinet is by locking them up. You can find an affordable medication lock box on at Walmart or Amazon.
If you would rather keep your medications in a cabinet, consider using a child proof latch. I recommend this dual-latch made by Munchkin.
Child-resistant does not equal Child-proof
Do not make the mistake that I did in thinking that pill bottles are child-proof. These bottles are child-resistant. To qualify as child-resistant, 85% of the children who were tested could not open the packaging within five minutes. But what that means is that 15% of the children tested could open the packaging within those five minutes.
Dispose of Unused Medicines
Make sure to routinely go through your medication and dispose of expired or unused medicine. It is important to not throw these medications in the trash can, as someone can steal them and when they go to the landfill they seep into the ground water. You also do not want to flush them down the toilet as this also poses an environmental hazard with medications getting into our drinking water. Some states have drug take back days or permanent drug take back boxes. I encourage you to look up your state to see if this is available in your community.
If a drop box is not available you can request a DisposeRX product from your local Walgreens. This product allows you to safely deactivate your medication at home and dispose of it properly.
Poison Help Hotline
Safe a life and keep the poison help line number posted somewhere visible, like your fridge. The number is 1-800-222-1222.
You have the power to prevent an accidental child medicine poisoning. Take the steps that I laid out above and make the change today. Remember to live each day presently.