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
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.
from the National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics
System, and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
You say you just don’t have time to prevent injuries? If you’ve got less than one minute to devote to safety, use it to:
Wipe up a spill right away. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal unintentional injuries for every age group, except 10 to 24 year olds—and for them it’s the second leading cause! Wiping up spills is one of several simple ways to prevent falls.
Not leave a child alone near water (yes, even for less than a minute). Kids don’t drown only in pools. Bathtubs, buckets, toilets, and hot tubs can be drowning dangers as well.
Test your smoke alarm to make sure it’s still working, and everyone in your household can hear it. Even alarms that are hard-wired or have long-life batteries need to be checked. You should have at least one working smoke alarm on each floor, and one inside every sleeping area is best. Consider having both ionization and photoelectric alarms, or dual alarms that incorporate both technologies. Ionization smoke alarms respond best to flaming fires, and photoelectric to smoldering fires.
Put away matches or lighters in a high cabinet or locked drawer, out of sight and reach of children. Children playing with fire is a leading cause of fire deaths for children under age 5.
Turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Space heaters are involved in 32% of heating fires but cause 82% of associated deaths and 64% of injuries.
Adjust the thermostat on your water heater to keep hot water less than 120°F, to prevent scalds.
Turn off the stove if you have to leave the kitchen while cooking. Unattended equipment is the #1 contributing factor in cooking fire deaths.
Put on your glasses and read the fine print on that medicine bottle. Unintentional poisonings have risen steadily since 1992, and for people 35 to 54 years old, they’re causing more deaths than motor vehicle crashes. Know how much, and how often, you can safely take any medication whether prescription or over-the-counter, as well as possible interactions with other drugs.
Keep the metal mesh screen of your fireplace closed, but leave glass doorsopen while burning a fire. The U.S. Fire Administration says leaving the doors open gives the fire enough air and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney. The screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace. Close the glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney from getting into the room.
Play Help Mikey Make It Out with your kids. This fun, interactive game at homefiredrill.org teaches life-saving home escape lessons.
Plan and practice your home escape. Working smoke alarms and CO detectors save lives, but does everyone in your home know what to do when they sound–especially in the middle of the night? Does everyone know your meeting place outside, where you can find each other and firefighters can find you? Visit homefiredrill.org.
Check the manufacturers instructions to see if you should replace your CO detector. You need a new detector every two to 10 years, depending on the model. Carbon monoxide kills in minutes, and unlike smoke from a fire it’s colorless, tasteless and odorless. It can be created by open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage (even with the door open). If you have only one carbon monoxide detector, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends it be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you.
Sixth-graders at Rochester City School #17 learned about home safety and practiced their presentation and leadership skills through a recent series of Peer to Peer Home Safety Trainings through a grant to Prevention 1st from the John Wegman Fund of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
In these workshops, students typically learn about such safety topics as fire and burns, smoke alarms and exit plans, household hazards, kitchen safety, and poison prevention, which they then teach to their schoolmates. For this training, the school’s principal asked for a presentation on one particular aspect of poison prevention–exposure to lead. Two students whose lives had been affected by lead poisoning took on the topic, telling their own stories and teaching schoolmates how to help keep themselves, younger siblings and their families safer. Learn more about lead poisoning prevention in this article by our training partner Community Health Strategies.
John Wegman Fund board members Betty Wells and Susan Touhsaent attended the students’ presentations to second- and third-graders at School #17. Ms. Wells told Prevention 1st:
“I was impressed by both the individuals staffing the program and the young people attending. The adults gave lots of individualized attention but allowed the students to follow their own plans. Each adult offered a different skill set which helped all students. [The youth] showed an ability to work as teams and come out with a good product in a fairly short period of time. Each power point was so different and had their individual touches.”
Imagine an epidemic so virulent that it is the leading cause of death for children, teens, young adults. It takes 125,000 lives in America alone every year, not to mention causing nearly $80 billion in medical costs. Such an epidemic would surely inspire extensive media coverage, politicians insisting that something be done, and intense public concern about how to protect themselves and their families.
All of the above is true for the epidemic of preventable injuries—minus the media hype, political outcry and public concern.
Amid the relentless media coverage of Ebola in Texas, columnist Frank Bruni recently asked his readers a question: “Have you had your flu shot?” Bruni’s point was that while close to 50,000 Americans may die in a bad flu year, less than half of us receive the simple vaccination against it. “Ebola in the United States certainly warrants concern,” he writes. “But Americans already have such answers about a host of other, greater perils to our health.”
While there may not be a vaccination against injuries, there are many simple, inexpensive and proven effective steps that anyone can take to protect themselves:
Do you fasten your seat belt, and make sure that others do, every time you drive or are a passenger? Tens of thousands of Americans die in car crashes annually, and according to a federal analysis from 2012, more than half of them weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Do you have a smoke alarm, and have you tested it lately to be sure it’s still working? Having a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a home fire in half. (See more simple steps for fire safety.)