How to Keep Your Child Safe from Pills and Medicine Bottles

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rachel-blackburn-author-banner-071213 I think a lot about keeping my kids safe. Working in the Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine here at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles I see a lot of kids who are ill or injured because of an accident and it makes me more aware of safety than ever. One of the things I am especially careful with is medicine. The thought of giving one of my kids the wrong medicine or wrong dose terrifies me. Yet, I find relief in my confidence as a nurse, in how to give medicine to patients and my kids. I have extra confidence because I follow safety guidelines to ensure my kids don’t play with or take medicine accidently.

Steps to Follow for Medicine Safety at Home

These expert steps I’m sharing are perfect for medicine safety at home. In school, nurses are taught to follow the “Five Rights” before giving medicine to a patient. You can easily follow these at home before giving your child medicine.

  1. Check that the patient (or your child) is right person for the medication assigned
  2. Check that you have the right medication
  3. Check that you have the right dose
  4. Check that you are giving medicine at the right time, for example, morning versus evening.
  5. Check that you are giving medicine in the right way, for example by mouth, injection, etc.
  6. I am adding a sixth step. Check that the medication is not expired. It’s easy to grab expired medicine without realizing it. I clean our family’s medicine cabinet once a year and take the expired medicine to the hazardous waste dump. You can visit lacsd.org/solidwaste to find a waste dump near you.

Following each of these six steps is important to make sure medication errors don’t happen. At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we lock up medicine far away from kids, so there is no chance of them poisoning themselves accidently.

Tips for Medicine Safety at Home

I have cared for many patients admitted to the hospital for consuming medication because they found it on the counter, in the refrigerator, or they saw a stray pill on the floor and thought it was candy. Medicine can look like candy but it is far more dangerous if consumed. Here are some easy tips to keep your child out of the medicine cabinet and loose pills from escaping into the furniture and carpet. If a child consumes medication not prescribed specifically for them or an incorrect dose, it can cause serious illness or injury and possibly even death.

  • Only give medicine prescribed or recommended specifically for your child by their pediatrician. Don’t share prescriptions.
  • Lock up the medicine in a cupboard up high where kids can’t reach.
  • NEVER leave medicine on counters! You can’t assume that just because it’s on a counter that kids cannot reach it.
  • If medicine needs to be refrigerated, put it in a locked container in the fridge and stash the key up high and out of reach.
  • If you accidentally drop a pill on the ground, FIND IT right away! Do not leave the room until you do. Believe me, even if you can’t find it, your child will. They have a knack for that!
  • If medicine must be sent to school, leave it with the front office – not the child.
  • Often children’s medicine is flavored and kids think its candy. Teach your child that it is NOT candy and it is not something they can have unless an adult tells them it’s ok.

Medicine is not a bad thing. It helps sick kids get better. As long as we are all careful and follow the six steps listed above, it is perfectly safe to have at home. So go home, do a spring cleaning of your medicine cabinet, put a good lock on it and rest easy knowing your kids are safe.