Each year, half a million calls are made to poison centers for medication overdoses in young children and the number of emergency department (ED) visits due to children getting into medicines is rising, with more than 60,000 young children brought to an ED every year because they got into medicines while an adult wasn’t looking.
CDC worked with the Georgia Poison Center on the first study to examine how effective devices called flow restrictors—adapters added to the necks of liquid medicine bottles to limit the amount of liquid that can come out of the bottle, even when turned upside down, shaken, or squeezed—can be for preventing young children from getting into liquid medicines. To see how well flow restrictors work when an adult does not correctly lock the safety cap, researchers filled medicine bottles with strawberry syrup and asked 110 pre-school aged children to try to get the entire liquid out.
The study was set up to determine if the children could open the bottles hen the cap was both correctly and incorrectly secured. One hundred ten 3 and 4 year olds were used in the study.
All but one (96%) of the open control bottles and 82% of the incompletely closed control bottles were emptied within 2 minutes by the preschoolers. Only 6% of the flow restricted bottled were emptied within the 10 minute test period, and none before 6 minutes. Overall the children removed less liquid from the bottles with flow restrictors than from the open or incompletely closed bottles without flow restrictors. All children assigned open control bottles and 90% assigned incompletely closed control bottles removed approx. 25ml of liquid.
In contrast 11% of children removed approx. 25 ml of liquid from uncapped bottles with flow restrictors. Older children removed more liquid than younger children.
The study suggests that flow restrictors, in addition to current safety packaging, limit the accessibility of liquid medicine to young children.
Current poison control packaging dates from 1970 when the first Poison Prevention Packaging Act became law. Today, liquid antibiotics prescribed for the child or sibling are the most frequent over ingested drug. Most emergency room visits involve children under five, with the peak age of 2. Most ingestion occurs in the home when a care giver is not supervising the child and when medications are not stored out of sight and reach of young children.
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