Health & Wellness
What Families Need to Know About OTC Medicines
What Families Need to Know About OTC Medicines

Over the years, I have always said that two of my boys were creative geniuses! This was after hours of crying and asking myself why boys find dirt, slimy substances and creatures, and anything else that is utterly disgusting to be so fascinating. It took some time, but I finally learned to just smile at the adventures behind finding slimy bugs outside, instead of yelling for them to go wash their hands. I am constantly amazed at what they create in their minds to do next, and I am elated that they are finally old enough to clean up their own messes! And apparently, my boys are not the only ones getting into things.

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Almost two years ago, I became the educator at the Central Texas Poison Center (CTPC). While out educating the community, people are always telling me stories of the times they called Poison Control because their children got into things. I reflected back on all of the things my boys have gotten into over the years and became curious as to why they never messed with medications or other products that would have me running to the phone in a panic. Then, I realized it was because I have always explained the use of medications. They are not curious about those things, because I have been very thorough in explaining everything about them.

This theory was put to the test just the other day. While checking out at our local grocery store, my 5th grader, who was inspecting the floor for who knows what, came across a pill. Knowing it was something he should not have, he handed it over to me. It was an orange round tablet that could have enticed smaller children to eat it. Naturally, I wondered what it was.

The Texas Poison Center Network, of which the (CTPC) is part, has an awesome app for any app capable device. One of the many features this app has is the ability to do pill identifications. After inputting the description of the tablet and the imprint on it, I discovered that it was a 20mg Adderall! That would be dangerous in the wrong hands.

I placed the tablet in a used soda can and put it in the trash. I turned to my son and praised him for bringing it to me instead of taking it, leaving it, or tricking his brother into taking it. I did a sigh of relief knowing he knows to do the right thing about medications.

While I am in the public, speaking to parents, I always offer a few tips:

  • Never call medicine candy. Be open and honest with your kids about what you are giving them.
  • Make sure you give the correct dose of medication. Using a spoon from the cupboard that you eat soup with is not an accurate measurement.
  • Make sure you read the labels of all medication bottles and follow the directions carefully.
  • Never allow children to get and take medicine unsupervised.

When speaking to children, I tell them:

  • Make sure an adult is with you if you are taking medicine.
  • Sometimes medicine can look and even taste like candy, but it isn’t candy. Be careful and pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. If you are not sure, ask a trusted adult.
  • Children are tricked by medications all the time, so before accepting candy from a friend at school, ask the teacher to make sure it is safe.

More tips and resources about OTC medicine safety are available through OTC Literacy, a new educational program from Scholastic developed in partnership with the American Association of Poison Control Centers and supported by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

The OTC Literacy program encourages and supports parents’ roles in educating their children on OTC medicine safety. Visit for more tips and resources on the safe use and storage of OTC medicines, and to find more information and at-home learning activities for families.

If you have any questions in the United States about poisons or poison prevention or if your child happens to take something he or she is not supposed to, call our experts at the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The experts that answer the Poison Help Line are healthcare professionals – pharmacists, nurses and doctors. Never hesitate to call with a medication or poisoning question or issue, and take the time to program the number into your cell phone.

Jennifer Watson lives with her husband and 4 children, ages 14, 10, 9, and 3 in Central Texas. She is the Community Education Specialist at the Central Texas Poison Center at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple. She is very passionate about preventing child hood injuries through poison exposures, and actively teaches the community about the dangers that lurk in and out of their homes and how to avoid them, as well as what to do if exposed to something that could be dangerous.

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