3 ways to keep your kids from being poisoned by medication

Most incidents are preventable. Here’s how.


A mother is giving her eight-month old baby some infant Tylenol. She carries the baby from the living room to the nursery to change the diaper. Upon their return, she finds her two-year-old with the bottle of infant Tylenol opened and spilled. Some is missing.

It’s an all-too-common occurrence that makes up the bulk of the more than 15,000 calls to Alberta’s Poison and Drug Information Service from people worried that a child in their care has ingested something harmful.

“In most cases, an assessment is done over the phone and cases can be managed at home,” said Patti Stark, community mobilization co-ordinator with the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre. “However, more than 1,600 children younger than 10 will be hospitalized for poisoning.

“Most of these incidents are predictable and preventable.”

Stark said two-thirds of hospital visits will involve common over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, multivitamins and diphenhydramine—a key ingredient in antihistamines or sedatives.

Here are some easy tips to help prevent children from being poisoned by medications:

  • Keep all prescription and over-the-counter medications locked up tight, out of sight and in their original containers. Remember, child-resistant caps on medication bottles are not childproof.
  • When taking your medications, do it away from children. Children often copy their parents’ actions.
  • Guests, family or friends may bring their own medication into your home. Put purses, backpacks and coats out of children’s reach.