Turn up the volume on safety message

“Keep out of reach of children.”

You’ve read it, right? Such a polite little piece of advice stripped up the sides of medication boxes and bottles around the world.

But it’s so polite, and so common, that it has lost much of the authority it may once have commanded. It’s like the “STOP IT!” “STOP it.” “Stop it.” “Oh, whatever. The kids never listen to me anyway” that we’re all guilty of now and then as fed-up, worn-out parents.

I was shocked once by a mother who spoke so casually about her four-year-old daughter taking her father’s very dangerous antipsychotic medication. I was even further shocked by her relaxed attitude to medication safety moving forward from this event.

Was this someone who had become “deaf” to the message?

Sometimes, like kids, we need something a little more direct and persuasive – a bit LOUDER - to get us listening again.

Well, how’s this for a loud message when it comes to medication safety?

It’s a headline from The New York Times recently - “Opioid poisonings rise sharply among toddlers and teenagers”.

Turns out that a massive increase in the use of opioids (painkillers), combined with unsafe medication storage around the home – ie, parents or other adults leaving pills within easy reach – has resulted in a huge spike in poisonings among little kids.

The story, based on a study published in the reputable JAMA Pediatrics, says the number of children aged 1-4 years being hospitalised in the US because of prescription opioid poisoning has risen sharply since 1997 – a whopping 205 percent!

Here in Australia use of opioids, while not as high as in the US, has also blown out - quadrupling in the period 2001-2013 (ABC). And there’s no reason to assume we’re any better at keeping our drugs out of reach of children.

The lead study author from the US study recommended: “The medical community needs to develop a safety plan for parents to store the pills and make their homes safe for their children” and to ensure adults understand how potent these drugs are and to “keep them out of reach of children”.

How’s that for LOUD?



Day for Daniel a day for all kids

Today is Day for Daniel, a national day of action to raise awareness of child safety, protection and prevention.

It is an initiative of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation (www.danielmorcombe.com.au), established by Bruce and Denise Morcombe in 2005 after their son Daniel was abducted and murdered two years earlier. One of the key roles of the foundation is to support parents and educators to teach children about their personal safety.

The theme of Day for Daniel is Wear Red and Educate. So I’ve done just that.

The red part was easy; talking to kids about this stuff is a little more difficult.

I don’t want them to live in fear, but I do need them to be aware.

I don’t want them to grow up too quickly, but I do need them to have a mature understanding of the world around them.

I don’t want them to be disrespectful to, or mistrustful of, adults or people in authority, but I do want them to recognise when they don’t feel safe, to react in a manner that ensures their safety, and to report any unsafe incidents.

We owe it to our children and to ourselves … and to a boy named Daniel.



The good, the bad and the button battery

Did anyone catch the top news story recently about a man who led police on a three-hour semitrailer chase?

Sounds a little exciting, right? A bit OJ Simpson.

Scratch below the surface and it was anything but.

The man surrendered peacefully (ho hum). But the best part - the chase occurred in California!

And this is the top story for some of our well-known Australian media. Such a good example of a bad news story.

Isn’t anything occurring here on home soil that would be of importance to us? Something more than the overabundance of cars crashing into houses that the media seems to be obsessed with of late?

Each day I receive Google alerts in my Inbox highlighting stories in the media that might be of interest based on certain key words I have identified as important.

For me and Juno ChildSafe, those words and sentences include “kids/children”, “accidental”, “poisoning”, “medication”, “hand sanitizer”.

But I remain surprised and disappointed that accidental medication poisoning in young children rarely gets a mention.

Every two hours in Australia a child aged under five years is treated in an emergency department for accidental medication poisoning. Where are the stories about that? Where are the medical experts being interviewed? Don’t we, as parents, have a right to know?

But there has been a little ray of sunshine recently, with some of the other words on my watch list making a starring appearance.

You probably know them – “lithium”, “button”, “batteries”.

Every week, about 20 children in Australia attend a hospital emergency department with a button battery exposure. To date, we have had two deaths.

You may have seen the startling footage of a button battery eating away at a pork sausage. It’s done the rounds of the news sites and social media, including our own Facebook page – www.facebook.com/junochildsafe

Thankfully, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, along with other organisations, have been doing their bit to put this story on the news agenda.

And then today, my little Google alert sent me this – Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Energiser Australia, Officeworks and other major retailers have adopted a voluntary industry code designed to reduce the number of Australian kids killed and injured when they swallow button batteries - see here for details.. 

Finally, some good news!