A Conversation’s Not Enough: Protecting Kids From an Accidental Overdose

Before I had kids I stood outside of a courthouse with a mom who was grieving for her own son.

That mom lost her toddler to an accidental overdose. The boy’s dad was just taken away handcuffed for the death. He was the one who left the Benadryl on the counter. The same Benadryl that little toddler reached for and slurped up.

I’ll never forget the pain in the mom’s voice. I’ll never forget talking to the first responders who said that little boy was telling jokes in the hospital as they hurried to get the drugs out of his fragile system.

It wasn’t enough.

The little boy died, his dad was in prison because of it and his mom left in shambles.

I became a mom about a year later and have tried to learn from their terrible story (understatement I know).

We started by keeping the medicines up, away and out of sight. When J.C. was old enough to understand we talked to him about it. He’s a smart boy. I’ve felt pretty confident the lessons in medication-safety were well received and understood.

That is, until this week.

I was dosing up Big G (he has four teeth coming in at the same time!) with Tylenol right before bed. The bottle was on the counter, my back turned to it. That’s when I heard this,

“Yum! I want a drink!”

I turned around. Sure enough, my way-too-smart-for-this-boy had his lips pressed against the bottle and his head tilting back.

I yanked it from him and started questioning him.

“How much did you drink?”

“Don’t you remember you can’t drink medicine?”

“How do you feel?”

“Let me smell your lips (yes, I smelled his lips).”

“Did you drink this?”

He had only one response.

“I didn’t drink it.”

Ha – fool me once. Fooled me with the understanding you can’t drink medicine, are you doing it again.

I explained to him (again!) how medicine is important, but if you take too much can be dangerous.

He started screaming, “I don’t have to go to the hospital! I didn’t drink it!”

I couldn’t decide what to do (after all, his lips didn’t smell like Tylenol). I told him we may have to go to the hospital, but I was going to call Poison Control first.

He responds, “Fine. You can take me to the hospital, but they won’t find anything wrong with me. They’ll say this boy is just fine.” (see, I told you he was smart).

Fortunately, a quick call (1 (800) 222-1222) to Poison Control had me breathing easy. Poison Control is able to do some calculations based on weight, medicine strength to determine how much he would have to drink to have truly been in danger. Even if he would have ingested the rest of that particular bottle, the Poison Control rep assured me he would have been fine.

However, the outcome could have been different if J.C. weighed a little less and that bottle had a little more of the medicine.

After the terrifying experience including flashbacks to the horrible story I did – we’ve made some changes.

1 – All medicines are out of reach (even from a counter)

You know as well as I do – where there’s a will, there’s a way with these little ones. If they can push over a chair, hop on a counter to get those graham crackers you thought were well hidden – they can do the same for medicines.

2 – Caps on all the time

In the middle of the night, when you realize one of your cute kiddos has a fever and you pull out the medicine halfway asleep – sometimes it doesn’t end up with the cap back on, where it’s supposed to be. That’s changing. The kids usually beat our alarm clocks. This is an extra step to make sure they don’t beat us to the medicine.

3 – Don’t Rely on the Conversation (but still have it)

Knowledge will always be power, even when referring to kids. So my son didn’t pay attention to the conversation this time. We will still tell him what is dangerous. It doesn’t mean he won’t run out into the street, he won’t drink Tylenol or jump from the couch head first. It is still our responsibility to try. Our other responsibility is to keep them away from the opportunities to fail.

What else should we do to make sure our kids stay away from medicines? How do you talk to your children about them?

Remember to put the medications out of reach of little ones, even if they're really smart!

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2 thoughts on “A Conversation’s Not Enough: Protecting Kids From an Accidental Overdose

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