It’s every parent’s nightmare: Your back is turned, and your child swallows something toxic. It happens with products that you may not think of as dangerous. Take over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops used to relieve redness or nasal decongestant sprays.
“In the hands of young children who are apt to swallow them, they can cause serious health consequences,” says pharmacist Yelena Maslov, Pharm.D., at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Between 1985 and 2012, FDA identified 96 cases in which children ranging from 1 month to 5 years accidentally swallowed products containing these ingredients. Cases were reported by both consumers and manufacturers to government databases monitored by FDA. According to some case reports, children were chewing or sucking on the bottles or were found with an empty bottle next to them.
There were no deaths reported, but more than half of the cases (53) reported hospitalization because of symptoms that included nausea, vomiting, lethargy (sleepiness), tachycardia (fast heart beat), and coma.
To help avoid a child’s accidental exposure to any medication, parents and other caregivers should:
- Store medicines in a safe location that is too high for young children to reach or see.
- Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside.
- If a medicine bottle does have a safety cap, be sure to relock it each time you use it.
- Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them away and out of sight when they are in your home.
- Avoid taking medicines in front of young children because they like to mimic adults.