Flow Restrictors Prevent Child Medication Poisonings

Each year, half a million calls are made to poison centers for medication overdoses in young children. The number of emergency department (ED) visits due to children getting into medicines is rising, with more than 60,000 young children brought to an ED every year because they took medicines while an adult wasn’t watching.


The CDC has worked with the Georgia Poison Center on the first study to examine how effective devices called flow restrictors—adapters added to the necks of liquid medicine bottles to limit the amount of liquid that can come out of the bottle, even when turned upside down, shaken, or squeezed—can be for preventing young children from getting into liquid medicines. To see how well flow restrictors work when an adult does not correctly lock the safety cap, researchers filled medicine bottles with strawberry syrup and asked 110 pre-school aged children to try to get all of the liquid out.


Flow restrictors are intended to work with current child-resistant packaging, such as child safety caps, to help keep young children from getting into medicines when adults aren’t looking. Child safety caps are designed to prevent, or at least delay, young children from opening bottles so that an adult may intervene, but caregivers must correctly re-secure the cap after each and every use in order for them to be effective. When children were given bottles with safety caps that were not locked all the way, 82 percent completely emptied these bottles in just 2 minutes. 90 percent of children removed 25 mL (five typical doses) or more of the liquid.


When children were given uncapped bottles with flow restrictors, only 6 percent completely emptied these bottles before the end of the 10 minute test. Only 11 percent of children were able to remove 25 mL or more of the liquid. While the three flow restrictor designs tested in this study performed well, all designs might not perform equally well. A next step is to develop safety standards for testing flow restrictors.


Although improved packaging can help keep young children from getting into medicines, caregivers should always remember to correctly lock child safety caps after every use and store medicines up and away and out of sight of young children.


See the CDC Announcement


See also, Medical Law Perspectives April 2012 Report: Using Medical Devices Off-Label: False Claims, Overpromotion, Malpractice, and Other Dangerous Territory