By Tracy Roche, Prevention Consultant at Alcohol & Drug Services

Is this a cough drop or Jolly Rancher?

Can you tell if that’s a gummy bear or a gummy vitamin?

Honey, do you want your cough medicine in grape, cherry, or watermelon flavor?

According to Safe Kids, 165 young children are brought to the ER every day after taking medicine on their own. Does that mean we’re sending our babies to the medicine cabinet while we sip margaritas by the pool? Of course not! Many things can happen and happen quickly.

For example, a tiny pill accidentally falls on the floor and a toddler puts it in his mouth. A preteen with a pounding headache easily misreads the dose. A preschooler eats a bottle of vitamins because she thinks they’re gummy bears. Medicine often looks or tastes like candy. We want our kids to take it when they need it. We also want them to take medicine safely.

The holidays can be a great time for family visits and fabulous parties. Holidays can also leave us distracted and kids unsupervised. Accidents can happen in an instant. Prevention is key. There are a lot of things that we as parents can do to keep little ones safe.

• Keep track of your medicines. Know how much you have vs. how much you should have.
• Store medicines together – out of sight and out of reach of children, teens, and pets. Lock medicines in a safe, jewelry box, or a tackle box as an added precaution. Remember – nothing is childproof.
• Remind children that medicine should only be given by a parent, guardian, or doctor. Babysitters and other adults should have a parent’s permission before giving medicine to any child.
• Medicine is medicine, not candy. Tell the child or teen why he needs to take the medicine (to feel better, etc) and for how long (so he understands it isn’t forever).
• Ask guests, relatives, and friends to safeguard medicines too. Visitors may keep medicine in purses, coat pockets, or luggage where little hands can easily find it.
• Throw away old, expired, and unused medicines regularly. Don’t flush unless the directions tell you to do so. Ask local law enforcement about Operation Medicine Drop (usually held twice a year at local pharmacies) or permanent drop box locations. If this isn’t an option, follow these directions to safely and quickly get rid of prescription or over-the-counter medications:
o For Liquids: Pour into a plastic bag filled with kitty litter, sawdust or charcoal.
o For pills: Pour water into the medicine bottle and let the pills dissolve. Then pour the water into a plastic bag filled with kitty litter, sawdust, or charcoal.
o Close the bag and hide it in your regular trash.
o Remove all personal information from the medicine bottle. You can mark out your information, soak the bottle in bleach water, or tear off the label.
o Recycle or throw away the prescription bottle.

For more information about medicine safety, teens and prescription drug abuse, or Operation Medicine Drop, .

Be happy. Be healthy. But most of all, be safe this holiday season!