Checked your Medicine cabinet lately?By
Think back to when you were a child. What lived in the medicine cabinet? Some aspirin, some iodine, and maybe some Band-Aids were about all that you saw. As modern medicine advances and we learn more about the human body and disease, there is a medication for just about everything. Do you have a chronic skin ailment? Take this. Have you eaten too many fatty foods? Take this. Allergy season getting you down? Take this. Are you having trouble concentrating? Take thi…
Add the fact that many of our households are going back to the mid-century model of multiple generations (kids, parents, and grandparents), and we find ourselves seeing some very crowded bathroom shelves. In many homes, an entire cabinet in the kitchen has been overtaken with pharmaceuticals.
Is it any wonder that 20% of the people in the U.S. have used prescription drugs for things other than what they were meant for? Even worse, while the accidental death of children from poisoning has been cut in half since the 1970’s, the percentage of children who have been poisoned from drugs has doubled.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, about 165 children are sent to emergency rooms in the U.S. every day after taking someone else’s medications. That’s four school bus loads. About eight classrooms of first graders. More kids go to the emergency room for meds than for car wrecks. And perhaps you’ve heard the story of the family that was kicked off of a flight because of an unruly child? There are many travel sites (and amazingly medical sites) that advocate a dose of Benadryl prior to flying.
Of all of the children who went to emergency rooms with prescription drug poisoning, about 95% of them where unsupervised. Of the ones who took drugs for other reasons, they were misled or enticed by the perceived effects of the drug. A young girl took her brother’s ADHD medicine because he said that it made him less hungry. A young man took his father’s pain medication thinking that they’d be safe because they were “doctor prescribed.” In some cases, the drugs are intentionally abused to get high. We’ve seen this in the abuse of oxycontin and children hallucinating on cough medicine. Another issue is the fact that drug makers treat medicines with flavors to make them more appealing to small children. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a pharmaceutical and a breath mint. That’s why it’s dangerous to refer to drugs as anything other than medicine when talking to children. You don’t want to offer them a dose of “candy.”
First and foremost, always put drugs away in a safe place. Medications should be administered, not freely available. Your medicine cabinet, be it a pillbox or a footlocker, should be like Fort Knox. There may not be a need for complex locks and secret code words, but secure enough that they are difficult for the wrong people to get to. And remember that “child resistant” does not mean “child proof”. They can be crafty little buggers.
You should also make sure that everything is clearly marked. A blank bottle or a mixed bottle of pills is a recipe for disaster. Aside from the clear danger of not knowing what you’re taking, there is the inherent danger of side effects and things that make the drugs more dangerous, like smoking, alcohol, or driving! Having a clearly marked bottle also helps to educate you on the effects and dosage. And drugs do have a shelf life! When you dispose of them, mix them with something gross, like kitty litter, to make them completely unappealing.
That being said, have you used the proper dose? Have you ever stepped on a scale and been surprised? You thought that you weighed more or suddenly realize that you need to join a gym? The same holds true for most of our perceptions of a teaspoon. If it comes with a dropper or measuring device, use it. Also look at who is in charge of medications. Everyone should have a clear role and understanding. Since it is often mom in the morning, daycare at lunch, and grandma after school, the dosage is in the hands of too many chefs. And just because one pill makes your headache go away doesn’t mean that two will do it faster. It may bring on a bigger headache!
Never ever ever ever share your medications. Unless you have a clone. Medications are designed for specific diseases, symptoms, body types, body chemistries, and more. Each of us is very different. When you are stressed out and your friend offers something to help you relax, your friend had better be wearing a white lab coat and receiving some healthy fees for the offer.
Lastly, write down this number: 1-800-222-1222. That’s the number for National Poison Control. We hope that you never need it.