A new study found that medications intended for dogs and cats are now posing risks to children, with one poison control center in central Ohio logging hundreds of calls from frantic parents whose children either swallowed medication prescribed for pets or were exposed to a topical treatment that hadn’t fully dried.
Fortunately, most of these cases did not cause any long-term health problems, but the findings released in the journal Pediatrics pointed to a greater need to properly store all medications – for pets and humans alike. Every year, nearly 60,000 children are poisoned by improperly stored medicines. That’s about one child every nine minutes.
“Pet medications are obviously only part of the many dangerous toxins that families with children need to be aware of in their own households,” said Dr. Amanda Chan, a pediatrician who practices at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Fannin Pediatrics.
While many parents don’t think about babyproofing until their child begins crawling and walking, Dr. Chan advises families to begin the process as early as possible.
“Definitely by the time your child turns 6 months old, you really need to make sure you have locks on cabinets that are within reach and that all poisonous materials – whether that’s a pill or a household cleaner – are stored in a place that’s inaccessible to children,” she said.
Be mindful that small children are attracted to colorful liquids and make sure to remind all guests that any medication they may have stowed away in purses or luggage should be placed out of reach immediately, Dr. Chan said.
“Children are curious beings and parents are often surprised at what their kids are able to get into,” she said.
In addition, it’s important to remember to dispose of all expired medications properly and in a timely fashion, further reducing the risk that they could become a danger to children, she said. But the cautionary advice isn’t just for parents with younger kids. Older children and teenagers can also attempt to ingest medications that aren’t meant for them, which is why it’s important that parents of kids at any age keep a close eye on their prescriptions and make sure they keep a running count of how many pills remain, Dr. Chan said.
“If for some reason your child does inadvertently swallow medications, having a good record of how many pills he or she may have taken can really help out when you call a poison control center for help,” Dr. Chan said. “It’s really important information in a crisis.”
Dr. Chan advises all parents that if they suspect anyone in the house may have ingested something they weren’t supposed to or were exposed to a dangerous chemical, they should contact the Texas Poison Center Network immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Do not wait until the person begins to look or feel sick before making the call. If a child is already showing signs of a life-threatening emergency, including difficult breathing or foaming at the mouth, dial 911 first.
“These folks are the experts and they are the people we call when we believe a child has been poisoned,” she said. “They have all the information we need regarding the effects of different medications and supplements, and they are well-versed on what to look for and how to treat and prevent dangerous complications. Having that number handy in an emergency can truly be lifesaving!”
To find the nearest Memorial Hermann Emergency Center, click here.