Accidental Medication Exposure at Home Takes a Toll on Kids
CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. –You’ve heard the warnings: put medicines out of reach of children, read all labels, take only what is prescribed in the manner it is prescribed. Yet every year, nearly 60,000 kids under the age of 5 are accidentally exposed to medications, according to Consumer Reports.
So, what can be done?
Proper disposal of unwanted, unused or expired medicines is a great way to safeguard against unintentional exposure. But throwing unwanted medicines into the garbage, down the toilet, or other non-sanctioned means of disposal is not safe and poses both health and environmental hazards.
The safest way to dispose of medicines is to put them in special medication disposal kiosks where they are stored until they can be destroyed. Working with the Alameda County Med-Project, Eden Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit network of care, now offers medication disposal kiosks to the community. The kiosks are conveniently located in the hospital’s lobby, open to the public, and free of charge for anyone to drop off unwanted or expired medications.
Says Eden’s trauma injury prevention specialist, Pam Stoker, “These kiosks are a symbol of our commitment to the safety and care of our community. By providing a location for safe disposal of medications, we are providing a means for people to proactively safeguard against accidental misuse of medications.”
Another option for safe disposal is to bring medications to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event on Saturday, April 27 at the Castro Valley Library from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. DEA officers will be on hand to collect unwanted or expired medicines as well as illegal drugs for safe disposal—no questions asked.
Safe storage of medicine is key in protecting against unintentional exposure. According to a new research report, Medicine Safety: A Key Part of Child-Proofing Your Home, a disconnect exists between where people “store” their medications and where they “keep” their medications. Medications that are not frequently used are “stored” in a safe location like a medicine cabinet or closet, whereas daily use prescriptions or over the counter medicines are “kept” in more convenient, easy to reach locations like the nightstand or counter top. This disconnect creates a risk for unintentional poisoning. To keep others safe, maintain all medications out of sight away from locations that are easily accessible—no matter how frequently you use them.
Working Together to Prevent Unintentional Exposure
In Alameda County, several agencies have come together to outreach to the community for medication safety education and awareness. Safe Kids Alameda County is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. They work to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Its members include Alameda County Emergency Medical Services, Alameda Health Systems, Sutter’s Eden Medical Center, UCSF-Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland, and many other local agencies. Work is also being done by the Alameda County Meds Coalition, which meets monthly at Supervisor Nate Miley’s office in Castro Valley. The Coalition brings together various agencies to work on topics of medication safety including legislation and ease of safe disposal of medications, safe prescribing, and education/awareness on medication safety.
To learn more about medication safety visit the SafeKids website.