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How to safely store children’s medication

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Keep medicine away from kids

How medicines are stored impacts both their effectiveness and your child's safety. These important tips from a pediatrician and a pharmacist will keep your family safe so you can get the most from your medications.

Toddler with medicine

Where should children's medicine be stored?

All too often we hear of young children getting into unlocked cabinets or finding a bottle that wasn't put away.

You can prevent this by storing medicines in a locked cabinet that is out of children's reach, advises Colleen Higgs, Pharm.D. and president of Ramsell Pharmacy Solutions. "Use a locked top file cabinet drawer or one of the locked storage areas in a desk hutch."

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Dr. Zachary Zarbock agrees. As a pediatrician and father of four, Dr. Zarbock emphasizes the importance of storing both child and adult medications in a secure location, well out of reach of a curious toddler.

"Using a child-resistant cupboard lock is important, even for hard-to-reach cabinets," cautions Zarbock. "It is not uncommon for a two-year-old to pull off acrobatic feats of balance and strength when it comes to getting that tasty medicine. Locking up medicines may seem inconvenient, but it may prevent both accidental injury or purposeful harm."

And stay alert when handling children's medicines, continues Zarbock. "All of these measures to protect our children are irrelevant if, in our 2 AM, tired and delusional state, we leave them on the counter or forget to put them away."

Check out a pediatrician's advice for navigating the medicine aisle >>

Out with the old...

"Some parents hang onto old leftover prescription medications for that future 'just in case' moment," Zarbock says. But old medicines may lose their effectiveness after their expiration date, and many -- especially antibiotics -- must be used within days after being opened.

Saving old pain medications can be especially problematic, adds Zarbock. Pain medications are narcotics and keeping them can get older kids in trouble with experimentation and prescription drug abuse. Store only what is needed and discard any expired or unused medications to reduce the risk of unsupervised kids getting their hands on them.

"Keep medicines locked away and regularly discard both expired over-the-counter medicines or unused prescriptions," cautions Zarbock. "Dispose of medications properly by putting them in the garbage, not flushing or rinsing down the sink. And dispose of prescription bottles separate from their contents to avoid the temptation of someone looking through the trash seeking drugs to abuse."

Get to know your pharmacist >>

Up next: More tips on storing children's medication >>

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