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When a Child Swallows Prescription Meds

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One mother's nightmare ... and a warning for all moms.

pile of multicolored pills

Momlogic's Julie: One of the scariest days of my life, and certainly my lowest moment as a mother, came when my daughter, then 18 months, walked into my bedroom holding out a handful of my husband's prescription pills. I remember screaming "Ohmigod, ohmigod!" and sticking my fingers in her mouth, where I found at least five soggy green capsules. I had no idea if she'd swallowed one or not ... and at that point, I had no idea what the pills even were. I rushed into the kitchen and found they were Naproxen, a very strong anti-inflammatory medication. My husband had accidentally left the half-opened bottle on the kitchen cabinet before he went to work, and she somehow grabbed the bottle while I was tending to my son in the other room.

I called Poison Control immediately. They said if she swallowed a capsule, she'd be violently throwing up within a half hour. At that time, I should take her to the ER to get her stomach pumped. But if she didn't throw up, that meant she hadn't swallowed one.

Those were the worst 30 minutes of my life. Thankfully, the nausea never came ... and I had definitely dodged a bullet. But many kids aren't so lucky. Some 9,179 toddlers and kids under age six were exposed to widely prescribed drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone between January 2003 and June 2006, according to a report published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Exposures ranged from a pill snatched quickly from a kid's mouth to actual ingestion, said Dr. Richard C. Dart, medical director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, and a co-author of the report.

Eight children died, 43 suffered life-threatening injuries or serious disabilities and 214 required prolonged medical treatment, all because they mistakenly took strong medications belonging to their parents, grandparents and other adults.

"For opioids, really, one pill is enough," said Dart. "One pill can kill or at least cause major effects."

That's why parents have to be extra careful not to drop pills on the floor, or leave them where kids can reach them.

Have you ever had any close calls?


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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 20, 2008, 9:52 PM

Yep…Just today(with my 2 yr old),thank god they were close really tight and well..But that would have been a nightmare if that ever happened to me.

Anonymous October 20, 2008, 11:20 PM

Seventeen years ago, my dear friend lost her one year old daughter due to the fact that she got into her aunts drawer and swallowed her pills. When she vomited the pills up, she suffocated on her own vomit. Her mother still mourns her and even though she’s had two kids since then, her picture is still prominently displayed in her home. My heart goes out to my friend and all the other families that have children that get hurt or killed due to this tragedy.

praying4baby#2 October 21, 2008, 1:53 AM

My daughter grabbed a hold of my tums once and she ate one, but was fine. Luckily no major medications. We keep our medications totally out of reach.

Nicole March 26, 2009, 10:07 PM

Some 9,179 toddlers and kids under age six were exposed to widely prescribed drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone between January 2003 and June 2006, according to a report published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.


My daughter was one of those. She was crawling into a roommate’s room.. We usually ALWAYS had his room gated and door closed but the room mate forgot. I was sleeping her my daughter’s dad was making food and allowing me to sleep. My daughter swallowed xanax for sure and who knows what else. Her father woke me and said he thinks she got into pills and I saw the blue running down her face with lots of drool. I told him not to wipe it off and we rushed to the ER. It was 2 min down the road. They put charcoal in her tummy to bind it up and sent her to a better hospital and she stayed in the ICU for a day and in the hospital for a week. She is 6 now and doing very well. I am sooo glad that we acted so fast!

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