Unsupervised children who get into the medicine cabinet at home account for 80%
of accidental poisonings among youths, according to new CDC data. Medication
errors by caregivers and drug abuse or misuse by teens and preteens accounted
for an additional 14% of cases.
Emergency department visits for unintentional poisoning involved prescription or
over-the-counter medication in 68.9% of pediatric cases, according to Daniel S.
Budnitz, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and colleagues.
Children taking medications without supervision caused 10 times as many
poisonings as overdose errors by a parent or other caregiver in the national study
of emergency department surveillance, the authors reported online ahead of print
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"The fact that, annually, one of every 180 children age 2 years is treated in an
emergency department for a medication overdose, despite current prevention
efforts, underscores the size of this public health issue,” Budnitz’s group
concluded. If anything, the results probably underestimate the scope of childhood
poisonings, since poison control centers receive many more calls about pediatric
poisonings, they noted. However, only a quarter of those result in direct
treatment by a healthcare professional, they noted.
Since unsupervised ingestion of medications by children 5 and under accounted for
more than 75% of childhood poisonings, prevention efforts should concentrate
on this problem, the investigators recommended. Child-resistant bottles, blister
packs, and other packaging have been effective against childhood medication
overdoses, Baum noted, though these can be defeated by failure to use them
properly, such as cross-threading a lid.
Further efforts should focus on improving packaging for the drugs most commonly
implicated in poisonings, such as bottles that release only a single dose at a time
or restrict the amount that can be ingested by an unsupervised child, the
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