Study finds child accidental overdoses lead to high rate of ER visits

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SALT LAKE CITY -- With more medicines in the home than ever before, the fear is children are getting their hands on them and ending up in the ER. That’s according to a new study from Safe Kids Worldwide.

About 160 children end up in the ER daily across the U.S. To put that in perspective, that's roughly four school bus loads of children.

Dr. Richard Thomas works at the ER at Primary Children’s Hospital.

“In this particular emergency department, we probably see four or five children a week," he said.

He has treated children who have ingested pain relievers, and prescription drugs. The most serious cases involve heart medications.

“For a very small child who only takes one or two of those tablets, it certainly can be very scary for the parents and requires really a high level of medical care, including an intensive care unit,” Thomas said.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 95 percent of medicine-related ER visits among children under the age of 5 are due to a child getting into medicine when an adult wasn’t looking.

“Statistics show that between 10 and 20 percent of all the medication poisonings for kids, unintentional ones, are actually kids getting into their grandparents' medication,” said Sherrie Pace with the Utah Poison Control Center.

Pace says parents can do better at protecting their children by following these steps:

  • Put medicines away after each use
  • Don’t keep medicine in a purse, backpack, unlocked cabinet/drawer
  • Buy child-resistant packages
  • Follow label instructions when giving children medications

Pace said it's important to put safety above convenience.

"I know with pill reminder boxes adults use, that's a good way to manage medicines, but they have to be kept out of reach with kids,” Pace said.

If your child ingests medicine or a poisonous chemical, don't wait until symptoms surface. Call the Utah Poison Control Center right away at 1-800-222-1222.