Medication Safety

In 2020, 49% of all calls to the Poison Helpline involving children under 5 years of age involved medications.

Medication Safety

Medicines are used to treat diseases, manage conditions, and relieve symptoms, therefore they are common items found in most households. Medicines are generally safe when used as prescribed or as directed on the label, but there are risks when medicine is taken incorrectly or when people take medication that is not prescribed to them. Each year in the state of Oklahoma adverse drug events and accidental exposures to medications cause occur frequently. Learning about medication safety can reduce and even prevent the risk of harm for you and your loved ones. One mission of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information (OCPDI) is to provide the people of Oklahoma with information about how to prevent medication exposures.

Most medication exposures occur in children less than 5 years of age, but accidental exposures occur in people of all ages. There are some general recommendations and things to remember when practicing appropriate medication safety. First, place medications out of your child's sight and reach, and use child safety locks on cabinets in all areas of your home. Always use medicines with child-resistant caps, but remember child-resistant does not mean completely child proof, and may only slow children down. Keep medicines in a locked box such as a tool or tackle box, for example, and place box high on a shelf out of sight and reach of young children.

Additional tips on preventing medication exposures:

  • When the phone rings or the doorbell sounds, be sure to take your child with you if medications are reachable or accessible.
  • Medicine should not be taken in front of children, because they like to imitate adults.
  • Keep purses, diaper bags and backpacks out of reach of your child, as they could contain medicine.
  • Keep medicines in their original containers, because many products can be mistaken for something to eat or drink if poured into a glass or bottle.
  • Medicines should be stored away from food or drinks, and never stored in the pantry.
  • Empty medication containers may still contain small amounts of liquids, so rinse empty containers before throwing them away.
  • Most importantly, always read the medication label before giving anyone medicine, and if you have medication dosing or administration questions, you can call the Poison Helpline to speak with a pharmacist 24-hours a day if you need assistance.

Drug Interactions

Our fact sheet Drug Interactions is available for you to share, print or download.

Taking a supplement could change the way a prescription drug works. Poison Centers receive many calls about interactions between medications and over-the-counter products or herbals. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or call a pharmacist at the Poison Helpline with your questions about medications

  • Tell your pharmacist and doctor about any herbal, natural or homeopathic supplements your are taking
  • Follow the package instructions carefully when taking over-the -counter or "natural" supplements.
  • Ask your pharmacist if there are any over-the-counter medications you should not be taking while on your prescription medications.


Medication Disposal

The proper disposal of old, unwanted and expired medications can help prevent medication interactions, drug overdoses, and overall harm.

Free medication disposal locations can be found across Oklahoma with the following link:

Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Free Medication Take-Back Location Finder

Cough and Colds

Cough And Cold fact sheet is available for download.

Medications may be more available in the home during cough and cold season than at other times of the year. Children are attracted to products that are flavored to taste good or resemble candy or beverages. Cough and cold medication may contain antihistamines, decongestants, and cough suppressants. When used incorrectly, they may cause agitation or drowsiness. In large doses they may have effects on blood pressure and heart rhythm.

Be sure you are not using two or more products with the same ingredients, particularly Acetaminophen.

Call with questions if you are not sure how much cough or cold medication to give or how to use multiple products.

  • Remember: Keep all medications up and away from children and return them to safe storage immediately after use.
  • Always check with other adults to prevent-double dosing of medication.
  • Be sure to turn on lights at night to ensure that the right medication and the right dose is given.
  • Cough and cold medicines can cause drowsiness or extreme agitation (excitement).
  • Many cough and cold medicines contain aspirin, acetaminophen or alcohol.
  • Follow label directions for dosage very carefully. Medicines may come in both child and adult strengths.
  • Children between 4 and 6 years of age should only be given over-the-counter cold medication if recommended by the child's doctor.