From: Reuters
Published March 25, 2008 03:26 PM

Unintentional overdoses common in children

By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - "Unintentional overdoses remain the most common cause of emergency visits for adverse drug events in children 1 to 4 years old," warns Dr. Daniel Budnitz, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over a 2-year period, adverse drug events were the third leading cause of nonfatal injuries among infants and the sixth leading cause of nonfatal injuries among children aged 1 to 4 years treated in hospital emergency departments, Budnitz and colleagues report.

"A large number of children continue to go to emergency departments for medication overdoses," Budnitz said, despite education, engineering, and enforcement strategies designed to help protect children from accidental overdoses and other adverse medication reactions.

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Using national surveillance data from 63 U.S. hospitals, Budnitz and colleagues estimate that 158,520 patients aged 18 years and younger visited emergency departments for adverse reactions to prescription and non-prescription medications, vaccines, vitamins, dietary supplements, and complementary and alternative therapies from 2004 to 2005.

Nearly 89 percent of the children were treated and released and the adverse reactions caused no deaths, the investigators report in The Journal of Pediatrics. However, kids from 1 to 4 years old were nearly 10 times more likely than children of other ages to be hospitalized for adverse drug events.

Moreover, children younger than 5 years were more than 4-times more likely to have an adverse drug event than children 5 years or older. Almost 45 percent of the adverse drug events were unintentional overdoses, mostly from pain relief and respiratory medications.

Checking the active ingredients of all dosed medications to insure a child is not given \two or more medicines with the same active ingredient' may help prevent unintentional overdoses, Budnitz commented.

Parents and caregivers should also use childproof packaging and storage, never leave kids alone with medicines, vitamins, or supplements, and should only medicate youngsters as directed by a physician, pharmacist, or package label. Additionally, refrain from giving cough and cold medicines to kids younger than 2 years, as well as dosing children with adult medicines, Budnitz said.

Innovative packaging and other preventive strategies may help prevent accidental overdoses among children, Buenitz and his colleagues he and colleagues note.

SOURCE: The Journal of Pediatrics, March 2008.

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