Statement of purpose In 2014 there were 57 448 emergency departments visits among children<6 years of age involving unsupervised exposure to a medicine or a dosing error, with about 16% resulting in hospitalisation. To better understand what might contribute to these events, we explored parents’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to safe storage of medicine.
Methods A national online survey of 2000 parents of children<6 years of age was commissioned. The survey included 36 closed-ended questions and was fielded from January 19 to 25, 2017 using Survey Sampling International’s online adult panel. The margin of error for the sample size was 2.2 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
Results 90% of parents agree that it is important to store all medicines out of sight and up high after every use, however, more than half admit to storing medicine in a location that is not out of sight and reach. Further, 40% of parents agreed that it is okay to keep daily medication on the kitchen counter or in another visible location so it is handy and nearly half agreed that when a child is sick, it is okay to keep medicine handy between doses. Parents also underestimate the age at which children’s risk of medicine poisoning begins to increase and half incorrectly believe that child-resistant packaging means a child won’t be able to get into it at all.
Conclusion The results suggest a disconnect between parental knowledge and behaviour and that parents may underestimate their child’s level of risk and ability to access medicine. Educational efforts should address specific scenarios where convenience is being selected over caution as well as clearly specifying what up and away and out of sight and reach means.
Significance/contribution This study provides guidance for educational efforts for parents of young children.