Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, is the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® and the secretary of the Association’s Executive Committee. He currently serves as a governor of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Board of Directors and chair of the PTCB Certification Council. I recently had a chance to interview him on behalf of AWARXE, a prescription drug safety program provided by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Foundation™.
• How common is accidental prescription drug abuse by kids?
Child self-exposure to prescription products accounts for 55% of emergency room visits, as noted in the 2011 The Growing Impact of Pediatric Pharmaceutical Poisoning study. Education is vital when it comes to preventing your children from misusing prescription drugs. Children tend to explore the world by tasting things, so it is important to teach your children the dangers of accidental poisoning. Tell your children to always ask an adult for help before taking any medication and to avoid putting unknown items in their mouth. Teach them to “ask before they eat.”
Did you know that the potential for adverse drug events in children is three times higher than adults? If your child has been prescribed a new medication, ask about the risks and benefits of the prescription and tell your physician about your child’s current and past allergies. If you are unsure of how to measure any medication, including over-the-counter drugs, ask your pharmacist for assistance and always use the measuring device included with the medication. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any adverse reactions that your child may have when taking a prescription.
If your child accidentally ingests prescription or non-prescription medicine not intended for their use, poison control can be reached from anywhere in the United States by calling 1-800/222-1222.
• Why is the holiday season particularly dangerous?
The holidays are a whirlwind of activity. It can be easy to get caught up in the festivities and lose track of safety habits. If you have prescription or non-prescribed medications in your home, make sure to always store them away securely.
A medication safe is an ideal storage option for medicine, but a high-shelf in a linen closet is another great option that is hard for children to access. Try not to store your medications in a bathroom medicine cabinet: the warm, moist environment can degrade your medications and it is easily accessible to anyone who enters your home. Easy access to prescription drugs can lead to accidental misuse.
The rush of the holidays can also cause dosing mistakes, so read the label of your medication every time to ensure that it is the correct medicine and that you are taking the correct amount. Use labeled pill boxes or a calendar to keep track of doses and prevent accidental overdoses.
• What can parents do to make sure their house is safe for young guests?
Ensure that your medications are stored in a secure location before guests arrive. Keep an inventory of your medications to make sure that pills do not go missing. Little fingers can wander into purses or coats and mistake medications for candy. So ask visitors using prescription medications to store them in your secure storage space or in their locked car. They will understand your request, since it concerns the safety of your children and young guests.
If you have expired or unneeded prescriptions, dispose of them as soon as you can at a medication disposal site. Most states have disposal sites that accept prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication, and vitamins. Visit the Find Disposal Information page on the AWARXE® Prescription Drug Safety Program website, to find a local site and more information about ways to properly dispose of unused medications. Prompt disposal of unwanted medications is a recommended practice year-round.
• What can parents do if they are traveling to other houses, to protect their kids from accidental drug ingestion?
Once again education is essential in preventing prescription drug misuse and abuse. Talk to your children about the dangers of tasting or eating unknown items. Stress the importance of asking before they eat, since medications can look tempting. Let your older children know that taking prescription medication incorrectly can be just as dangerous as using illicit drugs; caution is crucial.
If you see medication in a place that is easily accessible to your children, ask your host if he or she can move the medicine to a secure location. Giving your children the knowledge to spot potential dangers and working with your hosts to prevent accidents will keep the season bright.
For more tips about prescription drug safety for children of all ages, visit the Students page on AWARXE’s website.