teaching medication safety to preschoolers

Chaimommas want to welcome our guest poster Dipika Patel, PharmD, BCPS,CDE. She is a full-time working mom of a 3 1/2 year old boy and 2 year old girl. She is a Ambulatory Care Clinical Pharmacist where she works to help manage chronic disease states such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart failure and patients taking certain blood thinners. With her busy life of having kids only a year and a half apart, she enjoy educating parents about living a healthy and safe lifestyle. Here is her article on Medication Safety.

As a parent, our most important job is to protect our children from harm and teaching them how to make good decisions. Several months ago, my son’s preschool teacher had “Meet My Parents” week where parents could come in and speak to the class about essentially anything. As a pharmacist, I strongly believe in educating our children at any age on the potential dangers of not properly using medications. So when this opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to teach about this important matter. I thought long and hard about how I was going to relay this message to 3 and 4 year old kids and actually keep them engaged.

Medicine Safety

There are so many medications out on the market, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) that can be easily abused or mistaken for something else. You can even find medication on an online pharmacy these days, making it easier than ever to obtain strong medical drugs. A lot of the OTC medications are very similar looking to candy so for my son’s class I made a poster board with common OTC medications and similar looking candy (i.e. ex-lax and chocolate candy bar; gummy multi-vitamin and fruit snacks). I also took children’s tylenol, zyrtec, and ibuprofen to show the children that it looks similar to juice. I engaged the kids by involving them in the decision making of which one was medication, candy or juice. Of course most children thought they were all candy or juice.

So as a parent what should we be teaching our children when it comes to medications:

  • What is medicine? Medications can be anything from pills to lotions to creams to liquids.
  • Only take medications from a trusted grown-up (i.e. mom/dad, grandparents, teacher or even a caregiver)
  • Medicine is NOT candy. Parents should not even mention that it tastes like candy because they may take it even when you are not looking
  • Medicine can be dangerous if not taken correctly
  • Medicine is only given if sick or hurt
  • If medication given by doctor, it should only be taken by the person’s name that is on it
  • Show your children medications that are most commonly used in your house but make sure to store them in a secure place

Remember to continue to go over medication usage and safety as your child grows as each age focus is different. To get more age specific recommendations on how to teach your children about medications, you can visit: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-CounterMedicines/ucm094876.htm#8

Despite our best efforts in educating our children, there may be times where they accidentally ingest something that they shouldn’t have especially when we are no looking. Make sure to always keep the Poison Control Center’s Phone Number handy 1-800-222-1222. The Poison Control Centers offer free, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t hesitate to call, it can save a life.

For other helpful medication safety websites, you can visit:

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