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Do Your Kids Know the Dangers of Medicine Misuse?

Medicine errors and misuse of commonly available over-the-counter medications result in thousands of emergency room visits for children.

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In fifth and sixth grades, children are becoming more responsible for their own care—but they're not entirely there yet. It's important to still monitor their use of medicines, and reinforce that they should not take any medicines, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, without adult supervision.

If your children need to take certain medicines regularly, you should continue to monitor use. Even children who take medicines daily may make errors in dose or dosing frequency.

Medicine errors and misuse of commonly available over-the-counter medications result in thousands of emergency room visits for children under the age of 18 each year—and the vast majority is under age 5. Commonly used over-the-counter medications are the cause of about one-third of these visits, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Create a learning environment that encourages discussion about responsible medicine use. Teach your children to turn to health care professionals if they have questions or concerns you cannot answer.

OTC medicines can be harmful if misused or not used responsibly. Problems can arise if you:

  • Fail to read and follow the entire Drug Facts label
  • Take more than the labeled dose
  • Take the medicine more frequently than directed on the label
  • Use more than one medicine with the same active ingredient at the same time, which can lead to an overdose
  • Take medicines for longer than directed on the label
  • Take medicines for reasons or symptoms other than the uses directed on the label (sometimes referred to as off-label use)
  • Use a different dosing device than the one that came with the medicine
  • Take expired medication

When it comes to taking medicine, more doesn't necessarily mean better. If your symptoms don't get better or new symptoms appear, contact your health care professional. Take the time to fully understand the medicine that you're taking, read and follow the Drug Facts label, and call your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist with questions. And keep the Poison Help Number handy: 800-222-1222.

For more information about preventing medicine misuse in the home, visit and the Scholastic Over-the-Counter Medicine Safety website.


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