Accidental Childhood Overdoses on the Rise

Accidental Childhood Overdoses on the Rise
Arturo C. Taca, Jr. M.D

In a recent government study, 1 out of every 150 two-year-old kids visits an emergency room for treatment of an accidental medication overdose. In fact, almost 60,000 kids from this age group are hospitalized every year because of accidental poisoning.  According to a recent report by Safe Kids Worldwide, 95% of these trips to the ER are because a child got into medicines because they weren’t supervised by parents or caregivers.

About 40% of accidental poisoning among toddlers and preschoolers are caused by over the counter medicines and 90% of these events occur in the home when parents aren’t looking, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include cold or cough medicine, antihistamines, vitamins, and Tylenol.

Toddlers and young children accidentally swallow drugs because of their natural curiosity. Many medicines are brightly colored and may look like candy and appealing to children to put in their mouths.  Children younger than 5 years (especially 6 months to 3 years) tend to place everything they find into their mouths. In a matter of seconds, parents can turn their backs and toddlers can quickly grab medicines from low counters, from cabinets, or even from the trash cans.

What is more concerning these days is the easy access of pain pills. These powerful opiate based medications have been the focus of attention because of the rise of overdose deaths out numbering deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the US this year. Older children sometimes experiment early with other classmates and trade these pain pills at school and quickly get addicted to them.

Below are some steps from the CDC, parents can take to reduce risk at home for potentially deadly accidental poisonings.
Steps to take if you suspect poisoning

Make sure you have the Poison Help number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

1. Remain calm.

2. Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and the victim has collapsed or is not breathing. If the victim is awake and alert, dial Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Try to have this information ready:
    The child’s age and weight
  • The container or bottle, if available
  • The time of the poison exposure, if you know it
  • The address where the poisoning occurred.

Safe storage

  • Always store medicines and vitamins in a locked location, out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Flavored cough syrups stored in the fridge are easy targets, too. Move them to the back of the top shelf.
  • Remember not to keep medicines and vitamins in a purse, backpack or briefcase, either.
  • Buy child-resistant packages when available. Remember, though, that even safety caps aren’t that much of a deterrent, so meds must be securely closed and kept out of reach.
  • Remind baby sitters, house guests and visitors to keep purses and bags that contain medicine up and away when they visit your home.
  • Program the Poison Help number (1-800-222-1222) into your home and cell phones so you have it when you need it.

Out of sight, out of mind?

To help remember to take your medicines or vitamins when they are out of sight, use the following tips from the CDC’s Up and Away and Out of Sight program:

  • Write a note to yourself, and put the note somewhere you will see it (the family bulletin board, refrigerator, bathroom mirror).
  • Set a daily reminder. Send yourself an email or set the alarm on your watch or cell phone.
  • Take your medicines or vitamins at the same time every day, if possible.
  • Use a medicine log to keep track each time you take or give medicine.

Safe dosing

  • Always read and follow the label when giving medicines to children. If your child’s medication does not have dosing information or instructs you to call a doctor, be sure that the doctor knows the exact product you are using. Dosing differs among products.
  • Only use the dosing device packaged with the medications. Never use a household utensil, such as a teaspoon or tablespoon, to measure medicine.
  • Never give your child multiple medicines with the same active ingredient.
  • Wait the appropriate period of time between doses.
  • Don’t increase the dosage because your child seems sicker.
  • Never give adult medications to children.
  • Never call medicine “candy” or tell children it “tastes like candy.”
  • Avoid confusion by keeping all medicines in their original packages and containers.
  • If the medicine’s container doesn’t have a label or the label isn’t legible, don’t use it and dispose of it safely.
  • Do not take medicine or vitamins in front of kids while they’re busy playing with children’s toys, or involve children as helpers with dispensing medication.
  • Tell grandparents and other caregivers about safe dosing practices.

Courtesy of Safe Kids Worldwide

INSynergy, located at 11477 Olde Cabin Road, Suite 210, St. Louis, Mo., 63141, is the leading facility of its type within the Midwest that provides a highly confidential approach combining pharmaceutical therapy and counseling with minimal disruption to patients’ work schedules. Services range from anti-craving medications and detoxification to individual, family and group therapy sessions. INSynergy also addresses the psychological and psychiatric issues that lead to addictive behaviors such as ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Dr. Taca is a Diplomate and Board Certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine as well as the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

He has been a rich resource for local and national organizations, giving lectures on the biology of addiction and the cutting edge medical treatments available currently.

Before INSynergy, Dr. Taca completed his psychiatric residency training at St. Louis University where he was the Chief Resident of the Department of Psychiatry. He is currently a clinical instructor and continues to teach and supervise residents at the St. Louis University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and St. John’s Mercy Medical Center.

Dr. Taca also was voted one of the Best Doctors of America in Psychiatry. This distinction is only offered to those physicians who have been selected by consensus of their peers to be included in Best Doctors. Only about 5% of all doctors in the U.S. are honored in this way by their colleagues as the result of a nationwide survey in which doctors cast more than one million votes.



INSynergy Treatment Center, based in St. Louis, Mo., is the premier alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in the Midwest. A Modern Day Approach to Addiction Treatment. Rehab through science and research.

To learn more, please visit or call 314.649-STOP (7867) for a FREE, NO OBLIGATION EVALUATION from our team of addiction experts.