Parents, take note! Opioids prescribed for chronic pain should be kept out of sight of kids of all ages. A study finds that 60 percent of the opioid exposures occurred among children younger than five years, and 30 percent was found in teenagers.
The research team call for changes to prescribing practices, increased education about safe storage at home.
The findings, published online in the journal of Pediatrics, indicated more than 188,000 people called to US Poison Control Centers for pediatric exposure to opioids from January 2000 to December 2015, which is 32 calls a day or one every 45 minutes.
"As physicians, we need to find a balance between making sure that we are helping our patients manage their pain and making sure we don't prescribe more or stronger medication than they need," said senior study suthor Gary Smith.
"We need to continue to examine our prescription practices and to increase education to parents about safe ways to store these medications at home to keep them out of the hands of children," Smith added.
The medications leading to the most calls were hydrocodone (29 percent), oxycodone (18 percent), and codeine (17 percent). Among younger children (0-5 years), most opioid exposures occurred at home and were managed there without serious medical outcome. Among teenagers, on the other hand, more than two-thirds of the exposures were intentional.
"The opioid crisis which has been affecting our adult population has now trickled down to our children," said study author Dr. Marcel Casavant.
"When adults bring these medications into their homes, they can become a danger to the children that live there. It is important that these medications are stored up, away and out of sight of kids of all ages, in a locked cabinet is best," Casavant explained.