"The FDA is working hard to try to make medicines palatable to kids. But, there's a fine line between making a medicine such that a child is willing to take it, but not making it so tasty that they want to take it all the time. It's not an easy science," said Dr. Robert Squires, clinical director of pediatric gastroenterology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
"I think that if companies that make medicines could make them to look less like candy, then less unintentional ingestions will occur in kids," said Gittelman.
She also said that it's important to lock up medications and keep them in their original packaging. Almost one-quarter of the teachers in the study said that medications weren't locked up or out of reach in their homes.
A second study -- this one done by adults and scheduled for presentation at the same meeting -- found that in 24 homes with children between 2 and 6 years old, 22 percent of medications weren't stored safely. That included 30 percent of drugs containing acetaminophen (Tylenol).
That finding is particularly important because acetaminophen can be toxic to children when consumed in higher-than-approved doses.
But, said Squires, it's understandable that parents might underestimate the risk posed by acetaminophen. "When you can go to a big box store and buy enough acetaminophen to kill 30 people, it's hard to think that could be harmful," he explained.
"I wouldn't want people to be afraid of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is a very good medicine when taken in a standard dose," said Squires. But, when taken in large quantities, the drug can cause liver failure. "Recent data suggests that about 12 percent of acute liver failure in kids is from acetaminophen. And, about one-third of kids attempting suicide between 10 and 17 years old take too much acetaminophen," Squires noted.
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