Child-Resistant Caps Still Need You to Prevent Medication Overdoses

Child-resistant caps on medication bottles have helped reduce fatal poisonings of young children in the U.S. since they were mandated decades ago. But they can only protect children if they’re in place.

The holiday season brings visits to and from friends and families of all ages. Grandparents and adults who don’t usually have young children under the same roof may need to be reminded to carefully replace the cap on medications and keep medication bottles out of sight and reach.

Medications have overtaken household products such as cleaning fluids as the leading cause of child poisonings, and the number of ED visits and calls to poison control centers for medication overdoses is rising. Between 2005 and 2009, ED visits for medication overdoses among children younger than 5 years rose 20%.*

The peak incidence for unintentional medication overdoses is in 2-year-olds. It’s an age when young children are developing greater ability to move around on their own—and when their ability to reach surfaces previously out of reach can increase unexpectedly from one week to the next.

For all ages, analgesics (painkillers) are the #1 substance involved in poisonings reported to poison control centers, responsible for 11% of such poisonings.

The initiative Preventing Overdoses and Treatment Exposures Task Force (PROTECT) is promoting development of a new generation of safety packaging to limit the amount of medication a child could ingest even if a child-resistant cap has not been re-secured properly.

Acknowledging that even enhanced safety packaging will not be 100% “child-proof,” PROTECT has also launched the “Up and Away” public education campaign to promote safe use and storage of medications. Among their suggestions:  program the national poison control number (800-222-1222) into your cell phone.

Find more tips for preventing poisonings and other injuries in Prevention 1st’s Safety Resources.

*Data from the National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.