ABC News’ Paula Faris reports:
If you think those hard to open, child-resistant caps will always keep your children safe from pills, think again.
In the blink of an eye, children can gain access to medication that poses a risk to their health.
Every year, the Poison Control Center receives more than 500,000 phone calls related to children 5 and under gaining access to medications. That is one call every minute, every day.
It happened to Amany Mansour-Awarde. Her son took concentrated Tylenol, which she left on the dresser. The bottle had a child-resistant cap that had not been properly closed.
“He was covered in pink Tylenol,” Mansour-Awarde told ABC News. “I had no idea how much he had taken.”
In 2011, over 67,000 children 4 and under were rushed to the hospital for medicine poisoning. That’s one child every eight minutes, up 30 percent in the last decade, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
In some cases, children were exposed because parents and caregivers left pills out — on a kitchen or bathroom counter, even on the ground. And sometimes pills are in easy-to-open containers. But in others, kids opened pill bottles that were labeled “child-resistant” and their parents thought were safe.
To determine how easy it could be for children to open child-resistant bottles, ABC News recruited 6 children, ages 3 through 6, which we gathered at the Museum of Motherhood in New York City.
Before the demonstration officially started the youngest child in the group popped open a child-resistant pain prescription bottle in just six seconds.
Though the younger kids could not open the containers, kindergarteners opened every single bottle in a seven-minute period.
“If you give kids enough time with a device, they will be able to figure it out,” Vinya Agbor, a mother in the group, told ABC News.
So why is it so easy?
There’s no such thing as child-proof bottles and child-resistant means that the majority of children under 5 – some 85 percent — cannot open it in under 5 minutes, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Pill boxes – the kind many senior citizens rely on – are also a concern because most are not child-resistant at all.
After six hours of testing in the hospital, Mansour-Awarde was told her son was okay.
“I should have never have, for a moment, left that bottle on the dresser,” Mansour-Awarde said. “Tylenol overdose can lead to liver failure and death. I was very scared.”
The CPSC acknowledged that some children can get into pill bottles, and tells ABC News that there has to be a balance because seniors’ need to access their medication as well.
The lesson to parents is to keep your medications out of reach, or even better, lock them up. Even children’s vitamins, when taken in excess, can cause damage to the intestines and stomach.
Make sure you have the Poison Control Center’s number programmed into your phone (1-800-222-1222).