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The tragic death of 5-year-old Kimberly Michelle Brown from an accidental overdose of cough medicine is a sad reminder of how dangerous seemingly safe over-the-counter remedies can be. The little girl's grandmother was treating her for flulike symptoms with two different medications and accidentally gave her two-and-a half times the legal limit for the cough suppresant dextromethorphan, according to Denver's ABC News.
But cough and cold medications aren't considered safe for children under 6, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because of the risk of dangerous side effects and overdose -- and because many haven't been proven effective in children.
While child poisoning deaths overall have gone down by half in recent decades, rates of medicine-related accidents are up. The number of kids who have died from accidental medication poisoning has nearly doubled nationwide since the late 1970s, according to a new report released by Safe Kids Worldwide recently for National Poison Prevention Week. Safe Kids reports that 165 US kids visit the ER each day because of this type of accident. To avoid a terrifying trip to the ER, follow these tips:
Don't use cold medications in kids under age 6. If you've got a sick child under 6 at home, don't treat her symptoms with cough or cold meds. Find out how to treat your child's sickness without medicine here and learn about 16 home remedies for your child's cough here.
Store medications in an out-of-reach locked shelf or drawer. Yes, it's easier to store meds on the counter where you can see them, but the convenience is not worth the risk -- even if the meds have child-resistant caps. Instead, write yourself a note or set a daily alarm on your cell phone so you remember to take your pills. To learn more, click here.
Never call medications candy. We totally sympathize with parents of stubborn kids who are trying to do anything they can to get their little ones to take the meds they need. Yet calling medicine candy only sets you up for a potential problem later when that stubborn toddler searches for more "candy."
Don't take your meds in front of the kids. You know how your little ones love to play "house" and cook and clean just like you? The same principle could apply to medications -- with potentially dire consequences. Try and take medication when kids are sleeping or otherwise occupied, and never ask them to help you fetch pills or assist you with them in any way.
Educate the grandparents. Safe Kids states that 20 percent of all accidental child poisonings involve a grandparent's medication, so it's critical that they take some precautions, too. Make sure to store Nana's purse on a high shelf when she comes for a visit, or ask Grandpa to take his pillbox out of his pocket and leave it in the car. If you're visiting the grandparents, politely ask that they store their medications in a safe place while you're there, and to request child-resistant caps if they are able to handle them. Don’t worry about offending them -- it's your child's health at stake.