Tips for Parents and Kids: Children and Medication Safety


Medicine or medical drugs are sensitive items found in homes and whose impact might be beneficial or catastrophic if used if well used or if misused. Sometimes, due to tight work schedules at home or workplaces, people are sometimes in divided attention, which leaves the child unattended or on the check.

This gives the child in their own curious nature the freedom to explore objects and containers, especially labeled items such as medicine containers which are labeled in pictures that are attractive to them. Apparently, children have a common habit of putting everything acquired by their hands in their mouths, and medicines/drugs may not be an exemption. The child is thus likely to chew and swallow any medicine that’s/he comes across at home, which may cause instant or gradual effects which might be fatal to the child.

The harsh reality

Studies have shown that medicines are ranked top in the leading cause of child poisoning in the world. The CDC approximates that every day, 374 children aged between 0 and 19 seek emergency treatment in the US as a result of ingesting medicine stored at homes, where at least one dies of faces a dire risk of death. This informs the need to put in place critical medication safety routines at home. These are mainly coined to poor medicine storage practices, poor administration of medicine to children, poor disposal, and general negligence by adults. The following are tips for preventing injuries or harm associated with medicines at home.

Tips for safe storage

  • Always ensure that medicines are kept away, out of sight, and reach children. Children are naturally curious and want to explore everything within their sight and reach. Once they come into contact with medicine, they are triggered by the oral seeking sensory behavior to put it in their mouths, and the results could be catastrophic, if not fatal. Storing medicine on heights where the child cannot reach is the first step to guarantee medicine safety.
  • Consider storing medicines where children mostly explore. Children are fond of exploring purses, bag packs, jacket/trouser pockets, and nightstands. It’s thus likely that they will fish out a drug ‘carefully’ stored there. If this is not possible, bag packs or purses should be hooked high where children cannot reach them. Avoiding putting drugs/medicine in these sights altogether is thus a prudent move.
  • Consider storing medicine in child-resistant and child-proof objects whenever possible. Sometimes purses or medicine/drug cans may accidentally fall, resulting in spillage of medicine, making it easier for the child to leak or ingest the meds without the knowledge of the child’s attendant. This informs the need for child-resistant/proof objects, such as lockable boxes, or sealable containers, which may not easily open or spill the meds even if it accidentally falls.
  • Ensure medicine/drugs are returned inside their respective original containers/packages. Some drugs/medicines such as tablets have similar looks and may cause confusion. To avoid confusion and costs that this might elicit, tablets should be returned and restored in their respective labeled storage packages or containers.

Tips for giving medicine safely

  • Always read the label carefully – it’s important to read and identify the active ingredients in the medicine. It’s advisable to avoid giving more than one medicine with similar active ingredients as this might trigger extreme body reactions. If not sure, it’s always advisable to consult your physician.
  • Always strictly follow the prescribed dosage directions. Most medical poisonings occur due to assumptions, especially having used the same drug before. Always read the dosage directions on the label, and request the physician to indicate the dosage direction in simpler language. Even if you may have used the same medicine before on the child, it’s important to recognize the previous dosage directions might differ with the current, given by the severity of the condition.
  • Use the dosage that comes with the medicine. In most cases, medicines are packaged with a calibrated measuring cup, or medical spoon to assist with dosing. Apparently, a tablespoon or teaspoon might not measure the same quantity. Dosage is a sensitive matter, especially when it comes to children. For the avoidance of faults, it’s thus advisable to keenly use the measuring device(s) that come with the medicine.
  • Write/give clear medicine administration instructions to caregivers. If the medicine is to be given by another person, then the parent might have to give/emphasize critical administration instructions, such as what medicine, quantity, and at what time to be given to the child, and ensure that this is strictly followed.

Tips for safe disposal

If a particular medicine is no longer in use, it’s always advisable to dispose of it to avoid the risks and cost of possible contamination. The following are tips for proper disposal.

  • Dispose in pit latrines-expired or unusable drugs should be disposed in pit latrines to avoid access by children. Check the list of drugs disposable in the toilets through the FDA medicine disposal mechanisms.
  • Take-back programs-Some communities have medicine take-back programs, which promote medicine safety by assisting the public dispose unused or expired medicine. If this is available in your community, then make use of it, as it provides the safest disposal services.
  • Dispose in trash cans-many prescription medicines can be disposed in trash cans. However, they should be wrapped in plastic bags. Check the list of medicines that can be disposed in garbage bins in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disposal recommendations.

Other important medicine safety practices

In addition to the above tips, it’s important to put into consideration the following guidelines:

  • Teach or educate your children on medicine safety – inculcate a culture to your children that medicine should always be given by an adult (a parent, a guardian, a caretaker, an older sibling or an adult they recognize). This will improve their medicine safety.
  • Model responsible medicine practices – Older children should be taught how to properly handle medicine. Also, every child should be taught to dispose of, or return medicines to its safe storage place whenever they find poorly stored or fallen on the ground.
  • Responding to medicine related emergencies– Parents should teach older children and caretakers to their children how to respond to medicine-poisoning emergencies, such as administering first aid and seeking assistance from emergency response.

Last Updated on September 19, 2021