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More Medicines in Your Home Mean Increased Poisoning Risks for Children

March 18, 2016

New Safe Kids Worldwide Report Uncovers Scope of Problem and Offers Solutions for Parents

Washington, D.C. – The increase of medicines in the home since 1980 is staggering: Today there are three times as many prescriptions filled in the U.S. and five times as many dollars spent on over-the-counter medicines. With more medicine in the home than ever before, Safe Kids Worldwide is putting parents on alert to be vigilant about protecting their children from medicine poisoning.

Four School Busloads of Kids Go to the ER Every Day for Medicine Poisoning

The equivalent of about four school busloads of kids arrive at emergency rooms every day in the U.S. because a child accidentally got into medicine. That’s more than 59,000 kids each year. And almost every minute of every day, a call is made to a poison control center because a child got into medicine.

A new report released today by Safe Kids Worldwide, “The Rise of Medicine in the Home: Implications for Today’s Children,” explores the scope of the situation. While medicines play a vital role in treating disease, relieving symptoms and extending lives, they can cause serious harm to children who accidentally ingest them. Most families believe they are being careful about storing medicine away from children, but the alarming number of children being rushed to emergency rooms with medicine poisoning – one every nine minutes – demonstrates the need for families to stay vigilant in their efforts to protect their children from medicine poisoning.  

“The good news is that education efforts are working,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “Since Safe Kids and industry and government partners started getting the word out to parents about the importance of keeping kids safe around medicine, the number of ER visits has steadily declined. But there are still too many kids getting into medicine, so education needs to continue to be a priority for all.”

Who is at Greatest Risk?

Toddlers, those adventure-seeking explorers, are the most likely to been seen in the emergency room for medicine poisoning. In fact, 1- and 2-years olds make up seven out of ten emergency room visits for medicine poisoning. Parents of toddlers need to be extra attentive to storing medicine where young children can’t reach them.

Where Are Kids Finding Medicine?

Parents are often surprised to learn where kids are finding medicine, like on the ground, in purses, in diaper bags, on counters, in reachable cabinets and in refrigerators. The same daily medicine boxes that make pill taking easy for adults are also easy for young children to get into. Safe Kids encourages families to look around the home to see unexpected places where medicine might be within the reach of children.

Whose Medicine Are Kids Getting Into?

A review of ER records[i] showed that almost half the time (48%), the medicine kids got into belonged to a grandparent and 38 percent of the time it belonged to parents. Both parents and grandparents need to be diligent about keeping medicine out of reach, even those they take every day.

“We want parents and caregivers to remember that the first line of defense in preventing medicine poisoning is the family,” stated Carr. “Look around your home, and in your purses, to make sure all medicine is out of reach of children. And please, take a few moments to save the Poison Help Number into your phone: 1-800-222-1222. It’s free, it’s available 24/7, and it will put you in touch directly with experts who can help you with an emergency or just with a simple question.”

What Families Can Do to Protect Kids
  • Check all the places where kids find medicine and move all medicine up and away and out of sight.
  • Remember to safely store all potentially harmful health products.
  • Only use the dosing device that comes with the medicine.
  • Write clear instructions for caregivers about your child’s medicine.
  • Save the Poison Help line in your phone: 1-800-222-1222.


For more medicine safety tips, visit

National Poison Prevention Week is March 20 – 26, 2016.

Download the report and infographic created with support from McNeil Consumer Healthcare.




About Safe Kids Worldwide

Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization working to prevent childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Throughout the world, almost one million children die of an injury each year, and almost every one of these tragedies is preventable. Safe Kids works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the U.S. and with partners in more than 25 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more. Since 1988, Safe Kids has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 60 percent. Working together, we can do much more for kids everywhere. Join our effort at


[i] Details about whose medicine was involved was only available for 26% of ER records.