Child Resistant Does Not Mean Childproof


In 2005, FOX 9 news in Minneapolis reported a tragic story. A 15-month-old child died after drinking the contents of a bottle that contained her heart medicine, Tambocor (flecainide). Since birth, the child's parents had given her three doses each day to slow her racing heart. But in a matter of minutes, the child was able to open the prescription bottle and drink all the medicine. The overdose of what was once life-saving medicine killed her.

The parents had been visiting a friend. The medicine was in a diaper bag, which was sitting at the mother's feet. After feeding the child, the mother sat her on the floor. She went into the kitchen to get another milk bottle from the refrigerator and was back in no time. But it was long enough for her child to open the bottle of medicine and drink it. The child was rushed to the hospital, but she could not be saved.

The parents were shocked to see how easily the cap came off the medicine bottle. It was supposed to be a child resistant cap! A recent FOX 9 investigation into child resistant caps showed that many pharmacies use different caps. When tested, children 3 to 8 years old could quickly open the child resistant caps from Target, Walgreens, and Rainbow pharmacies. Many were opened in just a few seconds. None of the children could open the caps from Snyder's, Cub Foods, Fairview, or Clancy's pharmacies. And yet all the bottles and caps appeared to meet federal safety guidelines.

Some of the pharmacies whose bottles the children could open are now questioning the safety of their child resistant caps. They are actively searching for safer bottle and cap designs. But you can't rely solely on child resistant caps to protect your children. And it's just not possible to watch children or grandchildren every second.

To protect children from accidental poisonings with medicines:

Buy safety packaging. Buy medicines and vitamins with child resistant caps or packaging. Replace caps tightly after use. But remember, child resistant doesn't mean childproof. Given enough time, children may be able to open the container.

Keep medicines out of reach. Young children investigate their world by putting most things in their mouths. So store medicines in their original containers in a locked closet, cabinet, or drawer (not in the bathroom), where children cannot see or reach them.

Don't forget vitamins. Vitamins are medicines, too. In fact, vitamins with iron can be especially poisonous to children, so be sure to lock them up.

Secure purses. Keep purses and diaper bags (which may contain medicines) out of reach of children. Be aware of medicines that visitors may bring into your home. Children are curious and may investigate visitors, purses and suitcases.

Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Also, don't give a child medicine while another child is watching. Young children learn by imitating adults.

Never call medicine candy. Medicines and candy can look alike and children can’t tell the difference. They may eat and drink anything no matter how bad it tastes.

Alert babysitters. Many poisonings occur when the daily household routine has been disrupted. So alert your babysitter to this risk and what to do to prevent poisonings.

Take the medicine with you. If you are in the process of taking or giving medicine, take it with you to answer the door or phone. Never leave the medicine on the counter.

Teach children. Remind children often to never take a medicine unless an adult gives it to them. Also teach them that poisons often look like food or drink. Thus, they should ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.

Safely dispose of medicines. Regularly clean out your medicine cabinet. Discard old medicines in their original containers after placing them in a sturdy container, like a plain brown box. Make this container the last thing you put in the garbage can before pick-up.

Call the Poison Center right away. Keep the phone number of the Poison Center on or near your telephones (1-800-222-1222). If you suspect or know your child has taken a medicine, call immediately. Do not give the child anything to eat or drink, or make the child vomit unless the Poison Center tells you to.

Watch for repeat poisonings. Children who have already taken medicine on their own are more likely to try it again.

Created on May 1, 2005

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