June is a lot of things to me this year: the month I turned 40 (yipeee!), the earnest start of summer, the beginnings of an awesome USA performance in the 2014 World Cup and also National Home Safety Month. Of course it may be easy to make time to celebrate turning 40 or to watch the taped game where USA beats Ghana (go team!) but there really is one thing we should move into position numero uno. Can you make your house more museum-like, at least when it comes to medication safety this summer? Here’s why it should be placed at the top of the list.
A quick digression: no question I’d really like to live in a museum — unlike lots of others, it seems — I’m one of those people who hates a messy house although our house really does get highly disorganized (I find errant legos in every room/every day, our beds aren’t always made and may I ask where in the world do all the dirty socks come from?). I would prefer a museum-like home, beautiful stone on the floor, gorgeous lighting, thoughtful works of art on the wall and no distracting debris. A clean surface on which to place my purse when I walk in the door would be a good compromise! When I looked at the Up & Away tools that helps provide tips for parents on medication safety at home it reminded me that yes- museum living is definitely what I want (I mean, heck, look at that kitchen!!). HOWEVER, the realities of having 2 kids and limited time to keep organizational systems in check I’m going to have to settle for my not-always-perfectly cleaned floors, the walls of childhood art, the stacks and piles of mail and school forms, and the lighting I’ve got. But one thing I won’t sacrifice are the safety systems we’ve made to keep medications and toxins out of reach, even as our boys get older. Some data here reminded me I need to revisit our systems.
Statistics To Drive Home The Need For Medication Safety
- Check out the above OTC Safety Infographic: children mainly discover household medications when misplaced or on the ground (27% of the time), in a purse (20%), on the nightstand (20%), or in the pillbox that’s in arm’s reach (15%). Who’s coming to your house this summer that may mess this up? Can you make a place to put those lovely purses and beach bags when people walk in that’s up and out of reach? A hook reserved for guests only?
- About 4 out of 5 children who end up in the ER for a medication overdose are there because of an unsupervised medicine ingestion. That means ER staff, nurses, docs, and parents are required to do the complex sleuthing to figure out just what went down the hatch! When in times of transition or times when you know you’ll be distracted (you’re on the phone with your BFF from high school or working from home) can you ensure that places your child has access never include an unlocked cabinet, side table, bag or pillbox in arm’s reach? I’ve taken care of children who’ve ingested medications who literally had to climb on the cabinets to get to the meds in an unlocked cabinet.
- FDA changes and ongoing work to get unnecessary meds out of people’s home have helped but there’s clearly still room to improve. Those toddlers and preschools that we especially worry about when it comes to ingestions are having less ingestions of OTC cough and cold medicines; 2013 data comparing ingestions of cough and cold meds between 2007 and 2010 when labeling changed found that in children 12 years and under there was a 33% decline in unintentional ingestions.
- About 60,000 children are seen in the ER because of accidental medicine ingestions in the US annually. In just 8+ years of work in the community I’ve taken care of a handful of children who’ve ingested family mediations, antibiotics, OTC allergy medications, eye drops, and pain relievers. Safe medication storage really can change a child’s life!
Child, Family, Baby, Husband, Wife, Neighbor & Grandma Proof Your Home:
I worry about medication storage and safety for all sorts of practical and experiential reasons. I’ve taken care of plenty of children who’ve eaten medications, household cleaners, antibiotics, and even tasted eye drops. In the past I’ve written about how times of chaos create havoc on our museum-systems for safety, like moving, bring a new baby home, or having unusual visitors. And although we typically like to blame “Grandma” for leaving her purse on the couch that’s full of prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications the risk can be just about anyone — a friend’s friend, a neighbor, a parent from school…
I like the OTC Safety 4 tips to ritualize how we take medications to improve safety (above). No question that a child’s curiosity leads their development but that their judgment lags way behind. Especially when those children are under the age of 4.
Go off and museum-style your home?
This post was written in partnership with OTC Safety.org. In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @OTCSafety #OTCSafety for more info on health and wellness.