3 ways to lock down your medications

Prescription medicine ingested by children under 5 prompts thousands of calls annually to Kentucky’s poison control center. Learn what to do to keep kids safe.

Nearly 8,000 calls came into the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital in 2018 as a result of concerns about children under 5 ingesting medication. Calls involve kids getting access to medication they should not have or receiving the wrong dose or wrong medication.

The high number of calls puts medications on the list of the top five poisons, according to the poison control center. One reason is the trend of increasing numbers of prescriptions found in homes. According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and 15 percent of Americans are on five or more medications. Incidents involving prescriptions are responsible for nearly 60,000 trips to emergency departments in the U.S. each year for children alone, according to a Safe Kids Worldwide report.

Here are three precautions parents should take:

  1. Keep prescriptions in a safe place.Seems obvious, except for this fact: Child resistant caps are not childproof.

“The caps slow a curious child down, but they don’t stop them from getting into a medication,” said Maria Chapman, educator with the Kentucky Poison Control Center. “The most important thing you can do is put all medications in a secure place, out of reach of children.”

  1. While you’re at it, secure Grandma’s and Grandpa’s meds. Remarkably, nearly half of the children who needed emergency treatment consumed medication that belonged to a grandparent, Safe Kids Worldwide found. So when you’re visiting your relatives, don’t forget medication that a child could reach easily in grandparents’ cabinets or a family member’s purse or suitcase.


  1. Slow down and get it right.Double-dosing often occurs when parents are going through their busy morning routines and forget they’ve already given a child one dose, or when one adult in the household administers a medication and forgets to tell the other adult.

“Develop a system for giving medication, perhaps a checklist that helps you remember if you’ve already given that day’s dose,” Maria said. “It may seem obvious, but when you’re trying to get the family out the door on time in the morning, that list can prevent a problem. Medication boxes marked with the day of the week make it easy to remember, but they’re also easy for small hands to open and aren’t a good option for households with children.”

Remember, the risk of overdosing on prescription drugs is not limited to small children. The problem is prevalent in teens as well. Given greater responsibility for taking their own medications, teens can overdose accidentally or deliberately by taking too much medication.

Kentucky Poison Control Center

If your child has ingested a poison or improper medication, do not wait for him or her to look or feel sick. Do not try to treat your child yourself. Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Call now

No matter what your child gets into, call the 24/7 poison control center hotline at (800) 222-1222.

“We can help you determine if you actually need to seek emergency care,” Maria said. “Some medications will not cause a problem, but others may be extremely harmful to children with just one dose.

“If your child needs to go to the hospital, we can call ahead to the emergency department and give them instructions on what to do. However, if your child is not breathing or unconscious, you need to call 911 immediately.”