Kids and pet medications: How to keep your kids safe

Diablo, a husky/heeler mix, trying to catch the eye of a pet store customer.

Joining Healthy Kids blogger Jeanette Trella, PharmD, BCPPS, managing director at The Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is guest blogger, Emma Paras, senior emergency preparedness planner at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Paras writes about her own experience below.

I ate my dog’s heart worm medication. It wasn’t last week, or even last year; it was at the ripe old age of 3. I don’t know why I did it–an attempt to demonstrate solidarity with my beloved canine companion a cry for attention, case of mistaken identity (it sure looked like candy)? After calling The Poison Control Center in a panic, my father was instructed to give me ipecac syrup, and after I swallowed a heavy dose, my two older sisters were given the job of sitting in the backyard with me until I vomited.

Both of these sisters would later go on to become a physician and veterinarian, and I respectively, give myself particular credit for inspiring their career choices. While syrup of ipecac is no longer recommended as a home remedy for poisonings, children’s curious consumption is something that has unfortunately stood the test of time.

Over 1,400 veterinary medication ingestions were reported in kids less than 20 years of age to the Central Ohio Poison Center over a 14-year period as reported in a recent study in Pediatrics. Most often, the ingestion occurred in children less than 6–years-old, involving medications intended for dogs. I was surprised to see just how many kids have swallowed medications intended for animals.

For the Central Ohio Poison Center alone, there were an average of 95 calls per year, and this does not factor in cases from the nation’s other 54 poison control centers. The Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia had nearly 1,200 exposure calls to veterinary medications without human equivalence over 14 years, and this number does not include the exposures to all of the human medications intended for animal use.

While most cases were due to a child exploring their environment and eating something they shouldn’t, some cases actually occurred when a caregiver accidently gave an animal’s medication to the child instead of the medication intended for the child.

Fortunately, most cases did not result in adverse health effects to the children and were managed at home with the help of the Poison Center. There were children who went to the hospital, however; 80 cases of the 1,400 were seen in the emergency department for evaluation.  While the children’s health was intact, I’m willing to bet, that just like my father, their parents may have aged just a little more quickly the day they discovered their child ate something not meant for human consumption.

As with all human medications, be sure to store your animal’s medications out of sight and out of reach of your children. Do not forget to read the label before giving medication to your child, your pet, and yourself. And save The Poison Center number, 1-800-222-1222, in your phone as a 24/7 health care resource for any questions you may have about the potential harm of any substance.

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