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Parent & Child
Curious Toddlers Can't Resist the Potentially Dangerous Goodies in Grandma's Purse
Jan 8, 2007, 09:11

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Chicago, IL)- A natural curiosity and the desire to mimic behavior by adult family members can prompt small children to sample medications found around the home. Often adults forget that children are natural explorers who are able to move quickly and will generally put anything they get their hands on in their mouths.

A child's grandparents, often among the most loving adults in a child's life, can be the most common source of these dangerous medications. "Grandparents' medications account for 10- 20 percent of unintentional pediatric intoxications in the United States," said Robin McFee, D.O., an osteopathic physician and lead researcher in a recent study of pediatric pharmaceutical exposures, which ran in The JAOA- The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. "It is quite common for older adults to take several medications and carry them around in handbags or store them on counters and easy to reach locations. Unfortunately, children's curious nature leads them to explore what is in these containers."

In one case a 3-year-old boy was brought into the emergency room by his mother and grandmother after he ingested an unknown quantity and assortment of medications. The grandmother had placed her purse on the sofa for a moment and when she returned she discovered the boy had opened her purse and was playing with her pills. When he saw her he said, "M&M's, Nana," referring to the popular candy. At the hospital the grandmother told doctors that she keeps several days worth of pills in a sandwich bag because it is easier for her to open. Fortunately, the doctors were able to determine what pills the child ingested and he recovered quickly.

Granny syndrome-the pattern of accidental ingestion of a grandparents' medication-appears to be mainly the result of failure in patient education, which is a correctable condition. Patients need to be aware that access, not choice of container, has the most impact on prevention. Unattended purses or counters and low shelves allow for easy access to potentially deadly items for children.

Dr. McFee recommends taking these precautions:

1. Child-proof the houses of elderly relatives if they will be caring for children.

2. Avoid leaving any medication (nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products, prescriptions, or vitamins) unattended or within easy reach of children.

3. Avoid leaving medications in non-child-resistant containers.

4. Don't leave pocketbooks, purses, tote bags or jackets containing medication on the floor or within easy reach of children-even if the medications are in child-resistant containers.

5. Anticipate that children are natural explorers and will taste-test everything. To a child, pills look like candy.

6. Be aware that children will get into places that they shouldn't go.

7.When traveling, bring only the amount of medication necessary for the duration of the visit. Keep a list of names and doses of each medication with an accurate pill count. These precautions ensure that, if a child does get into the medications, ingestion will be kept to a minimum and pertinent information will be available to emergency personnel.

The American Osteopathic Association proudly represents its professional family of 59,000 osteopathic physicians (D.O.s); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for D.O.s; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical colleges; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities.

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