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Medicines Top Source of Kids' Poisonings
Date:8/4/2009

Over 70,000 children per year take painkillers, other drugs and end up in the ER, CDC says

TUESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The leading cause of accidental poisonings among American children can be found in the family medicine cabinet, a new government report shows.

Each year in the United States, more than 71,000 children aged 18 and younger are seen in emergency rooms for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, the researchers found.

In fact, more than two-thirds of emergency department visits are due to poisoning from prescription and over-the-counter medications -- that's more than double the rate of childhood poisonings caused by household cleaning products, plants and the like, the team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

"Medication overdoses are most common among 2-year-olds," added lead researcher Dr. Daniel Budnitz, director of the CDC's Medication Safety Program in the division of health-care quality promotion. "About one out of every 180 2-year-olds visits an emergency department for a medication overdose each year."

Dr. Robert Geller, a professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and medical director of the Georgia Poison Center, said that "the number children seen in the emergency room due to overdoses that are unintentional or medication errors is remarkable."

Geller noted that many more people reach out to poison control centers for help than show up at the hospital. "Right now, poison centers are having their funding cut," he noted. "If poison centers are less available, the number of children going to emergency rooms will rise."

More than 80 percent of these overdoses are due to unsupervised ingestion, Budnitz noted. "Basically, it's young children finding and eating medicine without adult supervision," he said. "They are found with an empty bottle or pills in their mouth or something, and t
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