Sunday, June 25, 2006

Pill Bottle Tip

Here's a tip that could either save you some time, or alert you to an emergency:

If you live in a house with small children, then whenever you open a new pill bottle -- doesn't matter what it is (Tylenol, antibiotics, whatever) -- then as soon as you take a pill, use a pen to make a tally mark on the label. That way you'll always have an exact count of how many pills have been taken, and how many SHOULD remain in the bottle.

I learned the hard way what can happen when you don't know how many pills should have been in the bottle. Specifically, last night, I spent a few hours in an emergency room with my two year old son. He had somehow gotten a bottle of Tylenol, had gotten it open, and was found by my six year old with a pill in his mouth. It was a 100-count bottle, and after gathering up what was spilled out, we counted 76. But my wife couldn't remember when she bought the bottle, how often she had taken a Tylenol, etc., so there wasn't any way to estimate whether there should have been 90 pills or whether 76 was just the right number.

Now adult Tylenol is extremely bitter, and I didn't think that my two year old son would have tried to chew more than one. Plus, he couldn't have had time to chew several before someone spotted him. Still, Tylenol can be surprisingly toxic in fairly low doses. So just in case, I took him to the emergency room, where they did a blood test. Turned out that his blood level of Tylenol was 11 -- far below the danger level of 150. So maybe he had ingested a minute bit of that one Tylenol.

The lesson, though, was this: If we had been able to count the checkmarks on the side of the Tylenol bottle, we could have instantly known, "Aha, someone has taken 23 pills, and if there are 76 left, that leaves only one unaccounted for, so there is really nothing to worry about." Or, hypothetically, we would have also been able to know if the two year old had somehow ingested several Tylenols.

Anyway, I thought this would be a useful tip for parents of small children. Or especially a mix of children -- as I know all too well, with older children in the house as well, it is impossible to guarantee that all potentially dangerous items -- breakable items, choking hazards, etc. -- are kept out of any infant's reach at all times. Someone else may have thought of this before, but I've never heard anyone tell parents that they should keeping a running tally of how many pills have been taken out of a bottle. Seems like very useful advice.


Blogger ATW said...

What a great idea. I too have never even had this suggested to me. I have had similar experiences with my 2 year old, and have had to endure the trauma of having his system purged with charcoal just in case. It may also be a good idea to make a indicator mark on the bottle of liquid medicines.

3:57 AM  

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