Signs That Your Child May Be Abusing Over the Counter Cold Medications


Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Flu Influenza Cold Virus Sick Illness IllMany households commonly have over the counter medications on hand, either stashed away in a kitchen drawer or in a bathroom medicine cabinet. It is not unusual for families to have multiple over the counter cold medications in the case that symptoms from the common cold may arise.

Typically, an over the counter medication is taken for a short time until symptoms resolve, and the remaining medication is stored away for use at another time. It can be easy to forget what over the counter medications were purchased or what might already be on hand, as these are often cycled through frequently.

Dangers of Over the Counter Substances to Children

However common over the counter medications might be, there are potentially dangerous substances within these medications that can be potentially harmful, especially to a younger child who may have gained access to pills, tablets, syrups, etc.

Children, who are especially curious and enjoy mimicking actions seen by adults, can attempt to take over the counter cold medications, which can lead to potentially adverse consequences. Misusing over the counter medications can result in gastrointestinal distress, cardiovascular complications and more.

Preventing Misuse of Over the Counter Medications

Girl sitting in grass with head between kneesThe most effective way to prevent a situation in which over the counter medications are misused by a child is to appropriately store all medication type substances. To a child, an over the counter medication can look like candy or a treat, so storing the medication out of sight and reach are crucial to prevention.

Consider utilizing a locked cabinet out of view of the child to prevent tampering. Regularly inspecting your over the counter medications is also helpful in determining if substances may be misused by household members.

If you see large quantities missing, oddly opened packages, etc., consider investing this more closely. Throw out any substances that have been tampered with or are expired to prevent the accumulation of unneeded over the counter cold medications.

If at any point, you suspect that your child may have ingested an over the counter cold medication or is misusing these substances, be sure to contract the help of a health professional immediately for intervention and treatment.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What do you think are some of the dangers posed to children in households were there is access to over the counter substances?

Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 23, 2016
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