Research shows that tweens begin to self-medicate around 11 years old (approximately 5th to 6th grade). According to a 2011 report by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), poison centers managed more than 263,100 cases of poison exposures involving children ages 6 to 19 – and of those, nearly 142,800 were exposures to medicines which include over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 58,500 emergency department visits were caused by adolescents self-administering medicines, and nearly 34 percent of these visits resulted from an overdose of OTC medicines – about 10,000 per year. In light of these facts, it is important for parents and guardians to address this critical issue to stop preventable accidents and correct misuse.
Efforts must be made to help reduce the incidents and risks associated with OTC medicines, and the best time to start is when kids are tweens. Parents, educators and organizations can now turn to a new program that is free to use in order to cast more light on this serious situation. Scholastic, a company with which teachers around the nation are comfortable and familiar, in partnership with AAPCC, has developed the “OTC Literacy” program that can be easily accessed online.
Research shows that many kids begin wanting to self-medicate and participate in their health and medicine decisions around the age of 11, making it imperative that schools, parents, guardians and communities begin addressing the issue at an early age. The OTC Literacy program has been designed for students in 5th and 6th grade and provides life-saving information. Health educators, teachers, nurses and others who work with these children and are able to provide informative lessons may want to consider accessing the curriculum and using it with their students.
The program covers OTC medicine so that tweens learn important precautions about medicines that may be in their homes, or that friends may offer to them. The educational resources cover such issues as the difference between prescription medicine and OTC medicines, safe and unsafe storage of medicines, and more. Tweens will also learn about the harmful risks associated with using OTC medicines inappropriately. In addition, the program teaches tweens how to read and understand the Drug Facts label on OTC medicine, so they can identify such things as active and non-active ingredients, dosing instructions, warnings, uses and more.
Parents play a critical role in helping their tweens learn about the responsible use of OTC medicines. The OTC Literacy program features new resources that are specifically designed to help facilitate conversations and provide learning opportunities for tweens. These materials include: an illustrated digital story, a digital student assessment quiz, a “Home Hazards Hunt” flash game and many other tools, including a Drug Facts label guide to teach tweens how to find important information for safe use. Most of the family resources and tools are available in both English and Spanish. Teaching tweens about OTC medicines will help alert them to the dangers and proper handling of these medicines, in the event that they find they have access to them.
For more information on using the OTC Literacy curriculum, please visit the Scholastic OTC Literacy site at www.scholastic.com/OTCliteracy/parents.