Everyone has medicines in their homes. When they are taken the right way and by the right person, medicines keep us healthy. But if too much or the wrong medicine is taken by mistake, poisoning can happen. For a child, taking even a small amount of a medicine meant for an adult can be deadly. To keep your family safe from medicine poisonings follow these tips.

Safe Use of Medicines

  • Read all the directions on the medicine bottle. Follow them carefully.
  • Turn on a light when you give or take medicines at night. This is so you know that you have the right amount of the right medicine.
  • Keep medicines in the bottle or container they came in, so you know what it is and how to use it.
  • Never share or sell your prescription drugs.
  • Keep pain medicines, such as methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, in a locked cabinet or box that can only be reached by people who take or give them.

Keeping Children Safe

  • Put the poison control phone number by every telephone. Save the number in your cell phone. In the U.S., the number is 800-222-1222. In Canada, the number is different for each province. Look for the number on the first page of your local phone book or online at http://www.capcc.ca/provcentres/centres.html.
  • Keep all medicines in the childproof containers they come in. Keep these in a locked cabinet or box that children cannot reach.
  • Don’t take medicine with children watching. They like to copy adults.
  • Don’t call medicine “candy.”
  • Don’t let guests leave medicines where children can find them, like in a purse, backpack, coat pocket, or unlocked suitcase.
  • When you take medicines, do not put your next dose on the counter or in a pill box where children can reach them.
  • Never leave children alone with medicines. If you are taking medicine and you have to do something else, such as answer the phone, take young children or the medicine with you.
  • Don’t leave your medication out. Put them away after each use.
  • Don’t throw away medicine patches or pills where children can find them. Fold used medicine patches so the sticky sides are together. There may be enough medicine in the used patch to hurt a child or pet if chewed.
  • Don’t keep medicines you no longer need. Ask your pharmacist about the best way to get rid of them.

What to Do if a Medicine Poisoning Happens

  • Stay calm.
  • Call 911 if the person has passed out or is not breathing. If the person is awake, call your poison control center. You should know the following:
    • How old the person is and how much they weigh
    • What time they took the medicine
    • What medicine the person took
    • Where the person was when they took the medicine
  • Stay on the phone and do what the emergency operator or poison control center tells you.

(Portions of this handout were adapted from the CDC webpage, “Tips to Prevent Poisonings.” More information about poison prevention is available at http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/Poisoning/preventiontips.htm.)

[February 2014]