The number of children who end up in the emergency room due to accidental medication poisoning is declining,
according to a new government study. Approximately 640,000 children age 5 and younger were treated in
emergency rooms for ingesting drugs between 2004 and 2013. Of these children, 70 percent were 1- or 2-year-
olds, the researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Almost one-fifth were
hospitalized. During the early 2000s, the number of children’s ER visits increased, peaking at about 76,000 in 2010.
The visits decreased to about 59,000 visits in 2013.
Most of the ER visits between 2010 and 2013 involved the ingestion of one medicine. Almost half involved
prescription pills, tablets or capsules. More than 260 different prescription pills, most of them intended for adults,
were involved in ER visits for unsupervised exposures in young children. The most common were narcotics, such as
buprenorphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone, followed by benzodiazepines such as clonazepam (Klonopin) and
alprazolam (Xanax). Almost one-quarter of visits involved over-the-counter pills, tablets or capsules. An additional
12 percent involved an over-the-counter liquid medicine, such as cough syrup.
Parents and caregivers are advised to keep all medicines Up and
Away and Out of Sight
in a safe location that is too high for young children to reach or see. Always relock the
safety cap on a medicine bottle, and return all medicines to the safe storage location after each use.