In the News …
Dr. Carol Huser, a Colorado medical examiner in La Plata County, stated the death of 5-year-old Kimber Michelle Brown was the result of a combination of two over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications, dextromethorphan (the active ingredient in OTC cough medications like Robitussin-DM) and an antihistamine, cetirazine (the active ingredient in the allergy medication, Zyrtec).
The child, who had toxic levels of the medications in her system at the time of her death, had been staying with her grandmother. It is uncertain if the grandmother administered too much medication to the child, or if the 5-year-old took doses without the grandmother’s knowledge. News reports indicate the medication was sitting on a counter in reach of the child.
At this time, Dr. Huser is ruling the death an accident.
My Thoughts on this Event …
This story is heartbreaking and my sympathies go out to the family of this child. Sadly, however, it’s not surprising since we know that 100,000 people die each year as a result of accidental overdoses or errors in the administration of medication. Based on information from the medical examiner’s office, it appears Kimber is now part of that statistic.
Events like this are exactly why I do my talk, Sex, Drugs & Red Bull™. Each and every day students, parents, celebrities, neighbors, coworkers, friends, relatives, and even children are injured or die as a result of a medication or other substance.
One of the critical pieces of information I discuss in my program is that we have become exceedingly comfortable with OTC medications. In my talk, I ask audiences which of these groups of drugs is the dangerous group: OTC, Prescription, or Illegal Drugs. I often see more hands raised for the “illegal drug,” but the truth is that they all can be dangerous. Because over the counter medications do not require a prescription from a physician we have a false sense of security about using them; however, they can be just as harmful — or lethal, as in this case — as prescription medications.
Is this Preventable?
Yes. A few tips to help keep you and your family safe when taking over the counter medications:
-Check with a pharmacist to make sure the medication you are purchasing is the appropriate choice for the person who will be taking it
-Ask your pharmacist to tell you exactly how much of the medication to take and how often to take it
-For liquid medications, use a measuring device (such as an oral syringe) instead of a kitchen spoon
-Ask your pharmacist about side effects and what to do if you have any side effects
-Ask your pharmacist what to do if you take too much medication, or call Poison Control (or 9-1-1) should you find yourself in that situation
-Never allow children to administer medications to themselves
-Keep all medications out of the reach of children
-Keep a log of the date and time medication is administered to prevent taking a dose too soon
Medications are like a weapon. Used appropriately and they can save your life. However, when they are misused they can be lethal.
Be well …
The Pharmacist Guy
The opinions and information provided by Chad Simpson are for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose, or render medical advice. They are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment from your physician or health care practitioner. Never start, stop, or make changes to your medication or health care regimen (including, but not limited to such things as exercise and physical therapy) without first checking with your physician.