Cincinnati Children's Blog

Keep Out of Reach: Baby’s Tragic Death is Sobering Reminder about Storing Medication Properly

The circumstances surrounding the tragic accidental death of an 11-month old Middletown, Ohio boy after possibly ingesting prescription pills is a sobering reminder to parents about the importance of keeping medication out of the reach of children.

According to a published local news report, the baby’s mother found pills on the kitchen floor and her son crawling nearby just before midnight Monday. She took him to Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, where he died shortly after 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The baby underwent an autopsy that did not immediately reveal an apparent cause of death. Investigators will not know what killed the infant until laboratory tests are complete, a process that takes about six to eight weeks. No sign of foul play was found on the infant’s body; the death appeared to be a tragic accident, the coroner said.

The tragedy is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children were seen in emergency rooms each year because of medication poisonings (excluding abuse and recreational drug use). Over 80 percent were because an unsupervised child found and consumed medications.

Among children, emergency room visits for medication poisonings are most common in children under 6 years of age. One out of every 180 2-year-olds will visit an emergency department for a medication poisoning.

Dr. Shan Yin, Medical Director at Cincinnati Children’s Drug and Poison Information Center (DPIC)  offers the following guidelines for keeping kids safe from the risks of medication poisoning.

Keeping medication out of children’s reach 

1. Store medicines and household products up high, out of sight and away from children.

2. Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and household products.

3. Ensure children can’t use chairs or stack items to climb to products stored out of their reach.

4. Re-close medicines and other household products if interrupted during use. Many incidents happen when adults are distracted (e.g., by the phone, computer or the doorbell).

5. Buy products in child-resistant packaging whenever possible. But remember, child-resistant is not childproof, and is designed to keep children away from the product for a short time before a parent notices.

6. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after each use.

Dr. Yin reminds parents and caregivers to apply the same degree of caution to keeping “pill minders” out of reach.

“Most of these plastic containers do not have any child resistant mechanisms and they are frequently stored in an easily accessible location since the medication(s) is often taken daily,” he says. “Anecdotally, these containers also seem to be associated with multiple drug ingestions in children.”

What to do if your child ingests medication or a poisonous substance

If you are present, first, get the rest of whatever your child has swallowed away from him/her. Then try to make him spit out anything left in his mouth. Keep a sample — unless you have the container — in case it’s needed to identify the poison.

Do not try to make your child vomit. If your child has swallowed a strong acid, such as toilet bowl cleaner, or a strong alkali, such as drain or oven cleaner, vomiting could cause further injury by bringing the burning substance back up through his throat and mouth.

Call 911 immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

• Difficulty breathing
• Severe throat pain
• Burns on the lips or mouth
• Convulsions
• Unconsciousness
• Extreme sleepiness

The phone number for the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center is 513-636-5111. You can also call a national hotline, 1-800-222-1222, and you will be connected to the center that serves your area.

Calls are free, confidential and answered by medical professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Association of Poison Control Centers.

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