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Children’s Accidental Poisonings Involves Just a Few Drugs
- Updated: September 15, 2014
According to a government study in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year between 2007 and 2011, approximately 9,500 children under the age of six were hospitalized because of getting hold of medication belonging to someone else in the household.
As Dr. Daniel Budnitz, director of the medication safety program with the CDC, 75% of those 9,500 children were between the ages of one and two. The findings of the study are a stark reminder to parents that children at greatest risk for accidental poisoning linked to drugs are extremely young.
Drugs with the Highest Risk
Information from this study is found in the most recent publication of Pediatrics, which indicates the specific drugs responsible for children’s hospitalization. Those at the top of the list for greatest risk include painkillers like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet although medications used to treat addiction to opioids are also a real problem.
Some of the other medications found to cause accidental poisoning in children include benzodiazepines like Xanax, Ativan, and Valium, as well as those containing the active ingredient clonidine most commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, as well as hypertension to include Nexiclon, Catapres, and Kapvay.
Budnitz and his team of researchers discovered that pertaining to a single ingredient medication that buprenorphine was the most dangerous, which is found in medications used to treat opioid addictions along with heroine and morphine. This narcotic is responsible for close to 8% of annual children’s hospitalizations. However, the majority of accidental poisoning cases involve a combination drug of buprenorphine and naloxone.
As stated by Dr. Shan Yin, medical director at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with the Drug and Poison Information Center, the list of medications identified in this new study are of no surprise. He continues by saying that these particular medications are commonly found in households and unfortunately, even at low doses they are highly toxic, especially for small children.
In other words, a small child could be poisoned by ingesting a very small amount of the medications listed. Another problem is that some of the drugs on the list cause delayed effects to include opioid painkillers. For this reason, medical experts advise parents who find any amount of medication missing to have small children in the home taken to the emergency room to be checked.
Methods of Risk Reduction
To reduce the risk, manufacturers of all brand-names of the mentioned products are now using blister packs opposed to bottles while drugs with generic names are in the process of making the change. The biggest advantage is that adults do not have to remember to tightly secure the lid of a blister pack, which according to Budnitz, will make a dramatic difference in the number of cases seen involving children’s accidental poisonings.
He adds however that while blister packs are a much better alternative to bottles, being “child resistant” does not equate to “child proof”. Therefore, parents, grandparents, and other family members who take medication of any kind need to be diligent in keeping medications out of the reach of young children.