Accidental Ingestion of Opioid Pain Relievers by Children Aged 1 to 5

As soon as infants learn to crawl and especially once they learn to walk, their mobility, curiosity, and tendency to put things in their mouths make many substances in the home a potential danger. The effects of the increased availability of opioid pain relievers are widely known and well-publicized.  Recently, light is being shed on this increased availability and its effects on the youngest members of society.  According to DAWN, the number of ED visits involving accidental ingestion of opioid pain relievers among children aged 1 to 5 tripled between 2004 and 2011.  About one quarter of these ED visits were serious enough to have ended with hospitalization or transfer to another health facility.   These findings show a critical need for increased education and awareness among parents, family members (e.g., grandparents), and caregivers about the danger of accidental ingestion of opioid pain relievers and other medications. Ways to safe-guard children include:


  • Asking pharmacies for child-resistant packaging;
  • Storing medications in secure/locked locations (not on bedside tables, bathroom countertops/drawers, or purses;
  • Properly closing medication containers;
  • Always turning on the light when giving children medication;
  • Taking extra care to pick up dropped medications;
  • Properly disposing of leftover or expired drugs.
  • Putting the Poison Help Line number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and saving it on cell phones.