This week is annual Poison Prevention Week and the Pettis County Health Center and the Safe Kids Coalition of West Central Missouri are using this time to educate parents and other adults about how to keep children safe around medications.

Poison Prevention Week takes place March 18 - 24 and the Pettis County Health Center says accidental medicine poisoning sends a child under 6 to the emergency room every nine minutes, and every 12 days, a child dies.

To help educate parents about medicinal poisoning, Safe Kids Worldwide recently released a report “Safe Medicine Storage: Recent Trends and Insights for Families and Health Educators," that suggests education efforts are making an impact, but too many children are still getting into medicine.

“Kids are curious and will explore and taste everything they discover,” said Torine Creppy, President of Safe Kids Worldwide. “That’s why it’s so important for parents to practice safe medicine storage from Day One.”

Here are some of the ways children may get into dangerous medication.

Child Resistant Doesn't Mean Child-Proof

When it comes to child-resistant packaging, half of parents surveyed said they think “child resistant” means a child won’t be able to get into the medicine at all. However, research suggests that about half of accidental medicine poisonings involved children getting into child-resistant packaging. While child-resistant packaging has helped delay children trying to get into medicine, it is not child-proof. There is no substitute for keeping medicine out of reach and sight.

It Only Takes a Minute

One in 3 parents surveyed said that if their child is being watched, it doesn’t matter as much where medicines are stored. But, in fact, it does: Parents whose child has gone to the emergency room due to medicine poisoning frequently say that they had only turned their back for a minute when the incident occurred. Even in homes where medicine is normally stored safely, children can quickly get into medicine left out between doses. That’s why it’s essential to put medicine out of reach and sight immediately after each use.

Kids are Curious Climbers

Previous research finds that in about half of over-the-counter (OTC) poisoning cases, the child climbed on a toy, a chair or other object to reach the medicine. And while 9 in 10 parents agree that it is important to store medicine out of reach and sight after every use, nearly 7 in 10 parents reported storing medicine within a child’s sight. To be safe, medicine should be stored out of reach (above counter height) and out of sight (like in a high cabinet) at all times.

“Storing medicine out of children’s reach and sight can make such a difference in keeping kids safe,” said JoAnn Martin, MSN, CPNP of Safe Kids Coalition of West Central Missouri. “We want to help parents become the expert in protecting their children. And it only takes a few minutes to save the Poison Help Line – 1-800-222-1222 – in your phone so you’ll have access to their free, 24/7 service in case of an emergency.”

The Pettis County Health Center is offering some tips to help protect children from dangerous medication:

- Put all medicine up and away, out of children’s reach and sight. Remember to keep visitors’ purses, bags and coats out of reach as well, as they may contain medicine.

- Remember child-resistant does not mean childproof. So put medicine away immediately after every use, even if you need to give another dose in a few hours.

- Save the Poison Help number in your phone: 1-800-222-1222.

For more medicine safety tips, visit SafeKids.org.

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