How to Keep Medicine Out of Kids’ Reach

hand with pills

Kids love to explore. No closet, cabinet or drawer is off limits.

Jenny Brooks, pediatric injury prevention coordinator at MU Health Care’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said parents should remember this when storing prescription and over-the-counter medications. Otherwise, they put their little ones at risk of medication poisoning.

“Many parents underestimate just how curious kids can be,” she said. “Out of convenience, they will store medication in plain sight atop kitchen counters and nightstands, not realizing how enticing that is to their children.

Brooks, who leads the Safe Kids Columbia program, said medication poisoning is a leading cause of emergency room visits for children — and it can be deadly. To keep kids safe, she said parents should store medication out of sight, preferably behind a locked door or on a high shelf that cannot be accessed via climbing.

Brooks also said it’s important to store medication in its original child-resistant packaging. Once pills are removed from their original container, they become much more difficult to identify.

“Some parents like to store pills in plastic baggies or pill organizers,” she said. “But this doesn’t just make it easier for kids to access the medication, it also makes it easier for kids to mistake the pills for candy or mints.”

However, Brooks offered a word of warning about child-resistant packaging.

“Do not assume that ‘child-resistant’ means ‘child-proof,’” she said. “Kids are astute. Within seconds, even a 3-year-old could figure out how to open a typical child-resistant container.”

Lastly, Brooks suggested always having Poison Control’s phone number nearby in case of accidental ingestion: 1-800-222-1222.