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Just how much do your children know about the dangers of over-the-counter medications? As parents, we do our best to educate our children about the dangers of drinking, street drugs, and even prescription medication but have you talked to your children about how dangerous OTC medications can be before they start using them on their own?
You may think that your children understand that over the counter medications can be dangerous when misused and that they know how to read the dosage information on labels, but are you really certain? Research shows that tweets often begin to self-dose at around 5th-6th grade, so it is important to have these conversations early!
Scholastic has partnered with the American Association of Poison Control Centers to help educate tweens on the safe usage of over the counter medications with the OTC Literacy program. As a part of this program, two surveys were conducted – one directed at 1100 tweens and one to 600 parents. The results of these surveys might come as a shock to some of you, as they likely did to many of the parents surveyed.
The survey found that tweens only answered 37% of questions correctly when asked about the responsible use of OTC medications. Only 54% of tweens surveyed knew that over the counter medications can be dangerous if misused and only 31% answered correctly that it isn’t safe to take more over the counter medication than is directed on the label. Parents seemed to have overestimated the knowledge of their children, with 68% believing that their children understood the risks of misusing OTC medications.
As a parent, it’s important to have conversations about OTC medications with your child, including when and how they are to be used, how to properly store them, and to make it clear that overdosing is indeed a danger.
So what do your kids need to know?
- First, and most important, children should know to only use medications with permission and under the supervision of a parent or caregiver.
- How to properly read medication labels and dosing information, understanding what is in their medication and to never mix medications with the same active ingredients.
- How to properly measure medication dosages, always using any dosing device that comes with the medication and not household measuring tools.
- How to properly store medications when they aren’t being used, putting them away in a safe place, out of reach of young children.
- What to do if they or someone else improperly uses OTC or other medications, knowing how to contact poison control in an emergency, if an adult is not present to help.
You can find many resources, checklists, and information for talking to your children about over the counter medications on the Scholastic OTC Literacy page, including a pre-assessment quiz to help you determine just how much your child understands about medications and their safe usage.
Have you had conversations at home about OTC medications? How old were your children when you began teaching them about the safe use of medication?