All medicines are poisons.
They are incredibly useful in the right doses, lifesaving even. They can also be very dangerous, especially for children. There are numerous reports of accidental overdoses—especially in young children so we hope this post helps curb them a little bit.
Many medicines for children such as pain relievers, cough syrups, and digestion aids are available over-the-counter and come with spoons, cups or droppers to help measure the proper dose. A different device, like a kitchen spoon, could hold the wrong amount and have debilitating effects.
Sometimes however, these dosage delivery devices do not have clear measurement markings or the markings are not consistent with the directions on the medicine’s package.
Here are tips to help with that:
- Prevent a poison emergency by always using a child-resistant cap: Relock the cap after each use. Be especially careful with any medicines that contain iron; they are the leading cause of poisoning deaths in young children.
- Know the “active ingredient” in the medicine: This is usually listed at the top of the ‘drug facts’label. Many medicines used to treat different symptoms have the same active ingredient. So if you’re treating a cold and a headache with two different medicines but both have the same active ingredient, you could be giving two times the normal dose. If you’re confused, check with a doctor or your pharmacist.
- Give the right medicine, in the right amount: Medicines with the same brand name can be sold in different strengths for infants, children and adults. The dose and directions also vary for children of different ages or weights. Always use the right strength and follow the directions exactly. Never use more medicine than directed.
- Use the dosage delivery device that comes with the medicine, such as a dropper or a dosing cup:The delivery device is very important especially for infants and smaller children. Oh, and never drink liquid medicine directly from the bottle.
- Note the difference between a tablespoon (tbsp.) and a teaspoon (tsp): A tablespoon holds three times as much medicine as a teaspoon. On measuring tools, a teaspoon (tsp) is equal to “5 ml”.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out what goes together and what does not: Some medicines, supplements, foods and beverages are not compatible and should not be taken simultaneously.
- Know your child’s weight: Dosage amounts for some medicines are based on weight. Never guess how much to give your child or try to figure instructions out from the adult dose.
- Store all medicines in a safe place: Some are tasty, colourful, and some can also be chewed. A child may think they are candy. Store all medicines and vitamins out of your child’s (and your pet’s) reach. If a child takes too much, call the doctor immediately.
- Check the medicine three times: For any medicine, it is always good practice to first, check the outside packaging for cuts, slices, or tears. Second, check the label on the inside package to be sure you have the right medicine and that the lid and seal are not broken. Third, check the colour, shape, size, and smell. If you notice anything unusual, talk to a pharmacist or other healthcare professional before using.
- Intentional overdosing;There are some sinister reports of children being given over the counter medicines to induce drowsiness and sleep, perhaps to give the caregiver a chance to rest. This is a highly dangerous practice and it should never be encouraged under any circumstances. If you are not around when this kind of process can take place, then always check the drugs in your home and try to keep track of how they are being administered.
Let’s bear in mind again that all medicines are foreign substances and should be handled carefully. If you feel any doubt or misgivings, please talk to your doctor. Stay safe!