Over-the-counter eye drops and nose sprays are used in many U.S. households, and now the Food and Drug Administration is warning the commonly used medications could cause serious harm if kids get a hold of them.
"In the hands of young children who are apt to swallow them, they can cause serious health consequences," FDA pharmacist Yelena Maslov, said in a statement.
The FDA says it has received reports of serious health issues from kids who ingested products containing tetrahydrozoline, naphazoline and oxymetazoline. Tetrahydrozoline is found in Visine Original, Walgreens Redness Reliever Advanced Eye Ophthalmic Solution and other products, while naphazoline is found in All Clear Ophthalmic Solution, Naphcon A Ophthalmic Solution and other products. Oxymetazoline is found in nasal spray brands including Afrin, Dristan and Sudafed sprays.
A list of products can be found on the FDA's web site.
The FDA identified 96 cases of children ingesting products containing those ingredients reported between 1985 and October 2012. Cases reviewed by the agency involved children 5 years old and younger. None died, but several needed hospitalization for problems such as coma, decreased heart rate, decreased breathing, and sedation after accidentally ingesting the products.
Cases reported that children were either chewing or sucking on the bottles or were found with an empty bottle next to them. Even ingesting small amounts was found to lead to cases requiring hospitalization, with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, hypertension, changes in heart rhythm and drooling.
"Most of these redness-relief eye drops and nasal decongestant sprays currently do not come packaged with child-resistant closures, so children can accidentally ingest the drug if the bottles are within easy reach," the FDA said.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has proposed a requirement for child-resistant packaging on these products.
If you think a child has ingested one of these products, call the toll-free Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 (which the FDA suggests parents should program in their phone) and seek emergency medical care immediately.
The agency says parents should also practice safety when storing medications and potentially harmful substances. More than 60,000 young children end up in emergency departments every year because they got into medicines while their parent or caregiver was not looking, according to the nonprofit Up and Away and Out of Sight.
Tips to reduce risk include storing medications in safe locations too high for children to reach, never leaving pills or vitamins out on counters, re-locking safety caps, not taking medication in front of children (as they like to imitate adults) and reminding guests to put purses, bags or coats away and out of sight when visiting homes with children.