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Store medicines up, away, and out of sight, urge pediatricians

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June is National Safety Month. With school out and summer vacations underway, child safety advocates including Robert Geller, have a prescription for summertime safety — keep all medications up and away and out of sight in a high cabinet or other place inaccessible to children. Geller is professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, chief of pediatrics at Grady Memorial Hospital/Hughes Spalding and medical director of the Georgia Poison Center.

"Any kind of medicine or vitamin can cause harm if taken in the wrong way, even medicine you can buy without a prescription," explains Geller. "Medical toxicology is an appropriate place to be a pediatrician, as two-thirds of exposures to medications and toxins involve children. In 2011, nearly half of fatal poisonings reported to poison control centers occurring in young children involved over-the-counter and prescription medications, including pain medicine, cold and cough medicines and antihistamines."

Parents and caregivers may not be aware of the danger posed by leaving medications where young children can reach them. More than 60,000 children each year — roughly four school busloads of children per day, end up in emergency departments (EDs) after ingesting medicines or vitamins while their parent or caregiver isn’t looking.

To address this important public health issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Educational Foundation teamed up to create Up and Away and Out of Sight — an educational program aimed at reminding parents and caregivers to always keep medicines and vitamins up and away and out of a child’s reach and sight every time they are used.

Geller,a representative for the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), along with Dan Budnitz, director of the CDC PROTECT Initiative — a project that works to keep children safe from unintentional medication overdoses served as spokespersons for Up and Away and Out of Sight.

The campaign outlines critical preventative steps for parents and caregivers to help keep young children safe from unsupervised medicine ingestion.

A few simple steps — done every time — can protect children. Learn more at

"Childhood exposures to medications and poisons usually provoke great concern on the part of the child’s parents, but usually are of low severity and the parent can be reassured," says Geller. "Where the child may become ill from their exposure, getting the child quickly to the right care reduces the risk of serious illness, and we can help this to happen. During my time at the Georgia Poison Center, we have handled more than 800,000 cases, with great success."

Founded by Emory pediatricians at Grady Memorial Hospital almost 40 years ago, the Georgia Poison Center has grown to serve as a key link between the public, hospitals and public health practitioners across the state.

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