4 Common Prescription (Rx) Drugs Can Kill Children With a Single Dose
Most people are probably aware of the importance of keeping all medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, pill or liquid, out of the reach of toddler’s hands. One or two tablets of certain medications can be lethal to a toddler. Even if we keep medications in a locked box, the threat of accidental ingestion still remains.
Statistics show that this is an all too common occurrence. According to the 2008 Annual Report from American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2008 there were 2.4 million cases of toxic ingestion. And 65% of these occurred in children younger than 6, which totaled 1.6 million cases and change. Children aged 18 to 36 months seemed to be at the highest risk, and in these little bodies, just one pill can be deadly. Even more worrisome is the fact that, after taking some of these pills, a child can appear perfectly fine until it is too late. The Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America says that in half of all childhood accidental poisonings, the medication bottle was only “out” for a short amount of time as it was being used.
Because medications are very common in the U.S., a child can be exposed not only at home when a parent takes a bottle out of the medicine cabinet, but just about anywhere that a pill can fall out of someone’s pocket. A young child can grab a pill off the floor and swallow it in the blink of an eye. Tragically, often times that is all it takes to cause life threatening and sometimes fatal reactions in their small bodies.
If you take any of the common medications listed below, it is especially important to keep them away from your children at all times, because even a single pill can be deadly. Here are some of the more common medicines that can lead to emergencies when accidentally ingested by kids:
Heart Pills — In children, they can cause dangerously low blood pressure and heart rate, and even lead to shock. Symptoms in children who ingest these medications usually show up one to five hours after they take the pill, but in the extended release pills, they may be delayed up to 14 hours, a fact that may make it even more difficult for the parent to figure out why the child is ill. Category: Calcium channel blockers. Scientific names: Diltiazem, Verapamil, Amlodipine, Nifedipine. Brand names: Cardizem, Cartia, Norvasc.
Prescription Pain Medications— For an infant, even half a tablet of hydrocodone can be lethal. Opiates, which are derived from opium, are ubiquitous in prescription pain medications today, a testament to their effectiveness. However, infants and children may be more susceptible to their effects than adults, putting them even more at risk. In fact, opiates and other pain medications, including acetaminophen, were the number one cause of medication-induced fatality from accidental ingestion in children younger than 6 in 2004, with the AAPCC counting 139 such deaths in that year alone. Category: Narcotic pain medications. Scientific names: Oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone. Brand names: Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin and others.
Antidepressants — After pain medications, antidepressants are the second highest cause of accidental death from poisoning in children younger than 6. After pain medications, antidepressants are the second highest cause of accidental death from poisoning in children younger than 6, according to the 2004 report by the AAPCC. Symptoms can be delayed for up to six hours, after which children can develop anything from seizures to coma and life-threatening heart rhythms. Category: Antidepressants. Scientific names: Amitriptyline, imipramine, buproprion. Brand names: Elavil, Tofranil, Wellbutrin, Zyban.
Diabetes Drugs — As these medications are more commonly prescribed, the incidence of pediatric poisonings has also increased. Children may not display signs of this until one to six hours later, but symptoms may last for 24 hours, so these children are often hospitalized for observation. Not only are these medications dangerous for a child that is not diabetic, children have less energy stores in their livers than adults do, making them more susceptible to the effects. They may develop sleepiness, confusion, headache and seizures, and some children have developed permanent brain damage and even died. Category: Diabetes Medications. Scientific Name: Sulfonylureas. Brand name: Glyburide, Glipizide.
Toothpaste that contains fluoride can also be very toxic, even if it’s marketed for children. It’s important to know that if your child swallows a large amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste, you need to call for emergency help immediately.
Even aspirin, eye drops, nasal sprays and muscle rubs can quickly lead to fatal consequences in children so don’t take any chances.
Even if you do not have children, if you are in situations where you are around children, or in places where children have access, we all need to be careful with our medications. The effort required to find a pill you dropped or misplaced is negligible compared to the consequences of that missing pill getting in the hands of a child.
Do your part to keep children safe. They are our future.