Report: Many Poison Control Calls Result from Children Improperly Taking Medication

March 20, 2015|2:18 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

A new report by child injury prevention organization Safe Kids Worldwide and the American Association of Poison Control Centers reveals that parents called poison centers across the country approximately 1,500 times during 2013 because their children had either taken medication not meant for them or taken appropriate medication incorrectly. The report, “Medicine Safety for Children: an In-Depth Look at Calls to Poison Control Centers,” notes that the majority of calls (89%) were made when children accidentally ingested medication, while a smaller pool of calls (19%) occurred when children improperly took correct medication. Most calls (75%) involved children under 4, while incidents involving children ages 10-14 or 15-19 accounted for 4 percent and 3 percent of calls, respectively.

According to the report, incidents involving teenagers were six times more likely to result in serious side effects, like seizures, vertigo, or disorientation, than incidents involving children under 4. Young children were most likely to accidentally consume ibuprofen, multivitamins, and diaper care products, while teenagers were most likely to take too much of prescribed medications, including drugs for mental health conditions or attention deficit disorder. Often, problems occurred when teenagers took the wrong medication or forgot to take a medication and then doubled up on pills.

Safe Kids Worldwide has compiled a list of age-appropriate recommendations to keep children from accessing or improperly taking medications, including:

  • Make sure that all medicine and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. Consider places where children often get into medicine, like purses, counters, and nightstands.
  • Don’t refer to medicine as candy, as it may encourage children to try it on their own.
  • Teach pre-teens and teens that medicine labels are rules, not guidelines. Be sure that they know that taking more than the recommended dose will not help them get relief any faster, and it could hurt them.
  • Communicate regularly with pre-teens and teens who take daily medications, as they may still make errors in dose amounts or frequency.

For more information, see this article from Learn about ASTHO’s efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse and misuse at