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New InHealth Program Examines the Dangers of Adverse Drug Events and Children

March 22, 2011

Hey, Those Pills Look Like Candy!

If you’re raising kids, you know that there are plenty of hot-button topics to pay attention to—enough of them to make your head spin. From the recent furor over binkies to the ongoing controversy about vaccinations, parents have a lot on their plates.

Still, certain issues more so than others demand universal parental awareness and education. Medication safety for children is one of those.

To provide parents and community members with more information and resources to prevent adverse drug events in children, Washington Hospital will debut a new original program titled: Voices InHealth: Medication Safety for Children next month on InHealth Channel 78.

The show will expose the true extent to the dangers of adverse drug events in children, as well as how to prevent them.

Speakers joining show host Barbara Kostick, M.D. will include Remo Cerruti, M.D. Pediatrician, Kadeer Halimi, D.O., Washington Hospital emergency medicine physician, and Minh-Thu Dennen, PharmD, Director of Pharmacy at Washington Hospital.

"Literally, it can be life threatening if your child takes the wrong medicine by accident," Dr. Halimi explains. "This is more so a problem with prescribed medications than over-the-counter ones, though there was a poll about cough and cold medications, and potentially kids can receive medicines that are over-the-counter that can cause great danger as well. There are a lot for parents to be aware of when it comes to children and medications."

Adverse drug events in the pediatric population has recently gained nationwide attention, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launching an initiative focusing specifically on this highly preventable issue.

According to CDC estimates, emergency departments across the country see approximately 71,000 children 18 years old and younger each year due to unintentional medication poisonings (excluding recreational drug use).

"One reason why we did this segment is because while we all know today’s medications can cure a lot, what many people don’t think about is that they can be dangerous as well, particularly in children," Dennen says.

She goes on to point out that often the younger the child, the higher the risk for that child to be a victim. Statistics show that the ill effects of an adverse drug event fall disproportionately on the very young due to their small size.

"Parents with young children must be careful," Dennen says. "Children less than five years old are twice as likely for an ER visit because of a medication overdose, and one out of 180 2-year-olds will visit the ER annually for a medication-related reaction."

"This is the main reason we put together this broadcast, to raise parental awareness of the potential danger of medications to children."

For his part, Dr. Halimi urges both parents and other community members to think twice if they believe the issue doesn’t pertain to them.

"Even if you don’t have children in the house, you should be wary of visitors to your home," he advises. "Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean there won’t be any in your home at some point."

Like having a fence around a back yard pool, keeping medications out of reach can go a long ways in keeping kids safer. Dr. Halimi points out that even his own household is not immune to the medication safety issue.

"Not only do we see kids coming into the Emergency Department with these issues, but I’ve see it in my own family," he explains. "My mother was visiting and, at one point, she found her heart medicine in my son’s hand, which could have been very dangerous. Children sometimes see medication as candy. You leave the bottle within reach and they can take it not knowing the consequences.

"Most often cases ending up in the ED were those of children having taken medications inadvertently."

Dr. Halimi has plenty of tips for community members to help reduce the number of potentially dangerous—or even fatal—adverse drug events in children.

"The most important thing is to keep medicines out of reach and use childproof caps, but it’s easy to forget to screw them on properly," he says. "Be aware that kids could get into them if they’re left out."

Some other good precautions for all households to take include:

  • Always choose a medication bottle or container with child safety caps
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children
  • Make sure you know which medications are in your medicine cabinet and get rid of old or expired prescription medicines, as they could be potentially hazardous

"Also, make sure you keep poison control number handy," Dr. Halimi adds. "Sometimes adolescent-age kids are at home by themselves and they should know the number to call. It’s a good number to have on hand if you think your child took any medicine. Always call Poison Control and tell them the symptoms, medicines taken and they can help determine whether to call 9-1-1.

"Overall, I think the show will help open the eyes of parents and inform them about potential medication errors they should be on the lookout for, and they might learn some points they may not have thought about before."

Watch the InHealth Channel Online

To learn more from the experts about medication safety and kids, including Dr. Halimi and Dennen, tune in to InHealth next month to watch Voices InHealth: Medication Safety for Children. InHealth is available on Comcast Channel 78 in Fremont, Union City and Newark. You can also watch the current schedule of InHealth Channel programs online at www. inhealth.tv from your desktop computer, mobile device or smart phone.

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