Store Medicines Safely While Traveling

By:  Dale Slavin, Ph.D.

Are you traveling during the holiday season?

In addition to planning where you’re going to stay and what you’re going to do, there is another important consideration: How are you going to store your medicines and vitamins in a way that will keep them out of the hands of young children in your family or the friends or family you’re visiting?

More than 60,000 young children are brought to emergency rooms each year after taking a medicine not intended for them. In recent years, the number of accidental medicine overdoses in young children has increased by 20 percent. Swallowing an adult-strength vitamin can also endanger a child’s health.

To reduce accidental exposure to medicines, FDA has been working on an initiative called PROTECT, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The initiative has created the Up and Away and Out of Sight educational program to help parents understand how to store and safeguard medicines.

With people planning holiday vacations, we want to remind parents and caregivers that they must also take precautions to make sure that kids don’t get into medicines when they’re staying in a hotel or are guests in someone else’s home. A few simple steps followed every time can protect small children.

FDA, CDC, and the PROTECT Initiative have these tips for safely storing medicines while traveling:

  • Put medicines away every time you use them. Remember to never leave medicine or vitamins out on a table, countertop, bedside table, or anywhere your children could reach them.
  • Store your medicines in their original child-resistant containers. Other containers, such as pill organizers and baggies, often lack child-safety features.
  • Always relock the safety cap on a medicine bottle. If it has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click.
  • While staying in a hotel, secure your medicines and vitamins in a location that your children cannot see or reach, such as a high cabinet or passcode-protected hotel room safe.
  • As a guest in another person’s home, don’t be shy about asking where you should put your medicines and vitamins, and remind others to keep their purses, bags, and coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Program the national Poison Help number (1-800-222-1222) and other emergency contact numbers into your cell phone so you will have them when you need them. Poison Help Information is online at www.poisonhelp.hrsa.gov.

Dale Slavin, Ph.D., is Acting Director, FDA’s Safe Use Initiative, which works to reduce preventable harm from medications