This is National Poison Prevention Week, a week nationally designated to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in the US, with most of these deaths due to drug and medicine misuse and abuse.
As parents, we know that young children are curious and explore so we begin, often as soon as they are born, poison-proofing our homes – putting medicines and other toxins out of reach to protect them from harm. As they grow up, we trust they will be responsible teens following labels for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, even prescription medicines.
While the majority of calls to the poison centers are about young children being the victim of unintentional medicine poisoning, a recent report, “Medicine Safety for Children: An In-Depth Look at Calls to Poison Centers,” showed that the percent of teens ages 15-19 who experience a serious outcome is more than six times greater than the percent for 1-4 year olds. Safe Kids Worldwide, in partnership with the American Association of Poison Control Centers analyzed more than 547,000 calls to poison centers to better understand what types of medicine young children and teens are getting into, how it happens and what parents can do to prevent unintentional medicine poisonings. What they found was alarming.
There are about 10,000 emergency room visits a year for medicine overdose by teens. When teens are in charge of managing their own medicine mistakes happen. The most common mistakes are forgetting to take medicine and then doubling up, taking two medicines with the same ingredient, and taking the wrong medicine. Medications that most often led to serious medical issues were prescriptions for mental health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Safe Kids said their report may be the first to warn against the particular risks teens face and points to the need to educate them about responsibly using medication. For parents of teens, Safe Kids Worldwide recommends these tips:
- Check in with your teens and talk about any medications they are taking.
- Teach your child how to read over-the-counter drug facts or prescription labels.
- Communicate to teens the importance of only taking medicine that is meant for them.
The report also shares tips for parents and caregivers of young children.
Parents and guardians for all ages – child through adult are also encouraged to save the number for the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222) in a cell phone and prominently displayed on the phone or refrigerator in the home.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.