Managing an accidental overdose
Eunice Yoon, MD, is a pediatric intensivist at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz. For more information on this topic, talk with your physician or call (480) 412-KIDS.
Question: My kids spend a lot of time at their grandparents' home. I worry they could get into a medicine cabinet and accidentally take some pills. If this happens, what steps should I take?
Answer: The best action you can take to protect your children from accidentally taking medications or anything else that might be toxic to their young bodies is to keep those items securely locked in cabinets. Children are curious, and they have an ability to climb to higher shelves and cabinets; others are able to open “child-proof” bottles. The only way to ensure that a child absolutely cannot access medications is to lock them away.
If you suspect your child has accidentally taken some medication, you should take the child to the nearest emergency room. If your child is having problems breathing or is difficult to arouse, call 911 at once. Emergency personnel will contact the local poison control center, if necessary.
While awaiting medical attention, try to remove any pill fragments from the child’s mouth and save them for medical staff to evaluate. Also, compile a list of all medications in the house, including dosages if possible. And gather any pill bottles that may have been opened and give them to medical personnel, so they can assess how many pills may have been taken. Do not induce vomiting, as this can be dangerous to the child, and do not allow your child to eat or drink anything until a medical team member has given you permission.
The best measure of protection is always prevention, but if your child does experience an accidental overdose, taking the above steps will aid medical staff in providing the most effective treatment possible.