Pain killers, cholesterol pills, heart meds - all common prescriptions kept in many homes for adults that can be deadly for kids. Each year, more than 60,000 children ages 5 and under are poisoned by accidentally ingesting those medications.
It's an alarming statistic - every day about 165 kids, or roughly four school bus loads full of children, end up in the emergency room after getting into medication, according to a recent report by Safe Kids Worldwide.
Since the late 1970s, the percentage of child poisoning deaths caused medications has nearly doubled, from 36 percent to 64 percent. Doctors say those deaths are 100 percent preventable, and call on parents and caregivers to work to reduce those numbers.
"We have more adults that are on medications now than at any time, at any point in history," said Dr. Tim Raghib, a pediatric hospitalist at Sparrow Hospital. "And because of that they're more readily accessible for these children."
And today's medications look more appetizing too.
"We've made medications taste better," said Dr. Raghib. "They smell better. They're more colorful. So a lot of time they're confused with candy for children, and so it's this incredible temptation for kids now."
One study found that more than one in 4 kindergarteners couldn't tell the difference between candy and over-the-counter medications. That's why Dr. Raghib says its important to make sure all medicines are locked up, not just put up on a high shelf.
"In that age range, zero to five or six years of age, is a time when kids are very much exploring their environment, and are very agile climbers," said Dr. Raghib. "So even medication that parents think is up and out of reach is accessible to children because they will get up and climb on them."
If medications are improperly stored, the chances of accidental poisoning increase. It's a risk that can have severe health consequences for kids and can even cause death. By keeping medicines locked away, parents can make sure they're keeping their homes, and kids, safe.
Experts recommend keeping medication in its original container. That way if by chance a child does accidentally take that medicine, parents at least know what it is. They also say its best to keep all medications in a child-proof container, or even use a box with a padlock to really make sure kids can't get into it.
If a child does get into medication, a lot of times kids may have residue or discoloration around their mouths. They may also be playing with the bottle the medicine was in. Doctors say if you have any suspicion a child may have accidentally taken medication, then call poison control right away at 1-800-222-1222.
Doctors say accidental poisonings can also be caused by giving a child an incorrect dosage of their own medicine, so it's important to always follow dosage guidelines carefully.