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More kids visit ER for accidental medication ingestion

Monday - 7/30/2012, 8:43am  ET

poison kids
Dr. Erik Schobitz works on a young patient at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital)

Paula Wolfson, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - More and more children are ending up in emergency rooms after accidentally taking medications designed for adults.

"We are seeing an increase not just in our E.R., but region-wide," says Dr. Erik Schobitz, who works in the pediatric emergency room at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

It's part of a national trend. Safe Kids Worldwide, an advocacy group for child safety, reported earlier in 2012 that roughly 165 children in the U.S. are rushed to emergency rooms each day after finding and taking medications.

Kate Carr, president and chief executive officer of Safe Kids, says it's the equivalent of "four school buses a day of kids."

A big part of the problem, says Carr, is curious children getting into medicines left sitting out with caps ajar, or in weekly pill boxes.

"That happened to me when my oldest daughter was 2 years old. My grandmother had counted out her pills, and my daughter found her blood pressure medication and swallowed a bottle of it," Carr says.

Schobitz says older family members usually opt for easy-open caps.

"It is getting into grandparents' medication that is a big concern," Schobitz says.

A major culprit, according to Schobitz, is blood pressure medication. However, the kids who get the sickest are those who take narcotic pain medications, such as Percocet and Vicodin.

"While that may be fine for a 200-pound male, it is not going to be good for a 2- year-old child," Schobitz says.

Adults need to be more aware, says Schobitz.

"We are taking more of these medications. We need to be responsible as adults," he says, adding that parents should not leave medicines out where where children can get into them.

Carr urges all parents and caregivers to have the poison control center number handy.

"Program it into your cellphone," she says.

The number is 1-800-222-1222.

Carr says callers will be connected with a poison expert within seconds.

"It's fast, and it's free."

Safe Kids and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend the following:

  • Store medicines out of reach and out of sight of young children

  • Put medicines and vitamins away after each use.

  • Always make sure the safety cap is locked.

  • Never tell children medicine is candy.

  • Ask houseguests to keep belongings with medicine in them up and away and out of sight when they visit.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)