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Winter Hazards

The onset of winter brings with it the cough and cold season. Consequently, there may be more medicines in the home then at other times of the year. The Nebraska Regional Poison Center would like to alert you to some of the potential problems associated with incorrect or accidental usage of these medicines.

  • Remember, prevention is the best treatment for poisonings.
  • Keep all medicines in a locked cupboard.
  • Always check with the other parent to prevent double-dosing of a child.
  • Be sure to turn the lights on at night to ensure correct use of the medicine.

Cough and Cold Medicines:

These medications may contain antihistamines, decongestants, and/or cough suppressants. Some also contain aspirin and acetaminophen or even alcohol. Used incorrectly these drugs can have a stimulant effect on a child or may cause extreme drowsiness. Alcohol although usually found in small concentrations in such medicines, if taken in large quantity can cause drunkenness, low blood sugar, and seizures in children.

Aspirin, Non-Aspirin and Ibuprofen Pain Relievers:

Aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used for pain relief and to reduce a fever. These ingredients are found in pill and liquid form, as well as in children and adult strengths. Some medications contain both aspirin and acetaminophen. In addition, a new extra-strength children’s tablet can now be purchased. The possibility for confusion is great. When used incorrectly, aspirin can cause bleeding, acetaminophen can cause liver damage and Motrin can cause stomach pain. Always read labels for dosage instructions and never exceed dosage recommendations without talking with your doctor. When taking two medicines, always be sure the ingredients are different. Of course, always keep these medicines out of reach of your children.


Antibiotics are often prescribed by doctors for infections. Many times they are stored in the refrigerator where children can see them. When the medicine must be kept in the refrigerator, place the bottle in a paper sack closed with masking tape or tied shut with bells on a string, or place it in a plastic container with a tight lid. Always call The Poison Center if a child gets into antibiotics. Some antibiotics can be toxic in large amounts or may cause an allergic reaction.


Children’s vitamins come in multicolored, multi-flavored, and attractive shapes which encourage ingestion by the young and inquisitive. Vitamins may be toxic in an overdose and must be treated as a medicine. Never refer to vitamins as candy. Storing no more then a week’s supply of vitamins in the kitchen and keeping the large bottle elsewhere, in a locked box can prevent accidental poisoning.

If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call the Nebraska Regional Poison Center immediately, 1-800-222-1222 or in the Omaha area 955-5555.