Recent studies are a stark reminder of how easy it is for children to be exposed to dangerous substances. They also underscore the important role nurses can play in educating parents on safe storage and sounding the alarm about other precautions. For example, one study of adults with children at home showed that prescription opioid pain relievers were stored unsafely in about two-thirds of the households. The authors, led by Eileen McDonald, program director of the Johns Hopkins Children's Safety Center in Baltimore, Maryland, noted that overdose deaths from drug exposures more than doubled among adolescents and young adults between 1999 and 2008.
“We need new packaging… to make it easier for parents to keep these potentially dangerous medications inaccessible to older children,” the study's senior author, Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a news release. “In the meantime, parents should keep their medications locked away and dispose of any leftover pills promptly and safely.” McDonald added that the findings should encourage pediatricians and other health care professionals to ask patients about the presence of opioids in the home.
Another study, by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used the National Poison Data System (NPDS) to identify adverse health risks in young children who had ingested alcohol-based hand sanitizers. “Caregivers and health care providers need to be aware of the potential risks and dangers associated with improper use of hand sanitizer products among children and the need to use proper safety precautions to protect children,” the team wrote. “Increased parental or teacher supervision might be needed while using alcohol hand sanitizer products, especially for older children who might be abusing these products during the school year.”
Another study of the NPDS found an increasing rate of marijuana exposure, including edible products, among children younger than six, particularly in states where the use of marijuana has been legalized.—Serena Stockwell
McDonald EM, et al Pediatrics
2017;139(3):e20162161; Santos C, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
2017;66(8):223-6; Onders B, et al Clin Pediatr (Phila) 2016 55 5 428–36