Many American seniors fail to secure their medications when grandchildren are around, putting kids at risk of accidental poisoning, an alarming new survey finds.
Eighty-four percent of the 1,074 grandparents who responded to the online survey said they keep their medications in the usual spot when grandkids visit -- including cupboards or cabinets (61%); countertops and tables (18%); purses or bags (7%); or other locations (15%).
Only 5% said they routinely keep their medications in a locked cupboard or cabinet.
The survey was conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy.
"Prescription medicines, and even over-the-counter medicines and supplements, can harm children and teens who find them in Grandma's purse or on Grandpa's kitchen table," poll director Dr. Preeti Malani said in a university news release.
"Meanwhile, opioid painkillers and sleep medicines can be diverted for recreational use by teens. No matter how old your grandchildren are, you need to think about medication safety," she said.
Nearly 40% of kids treated in U.S. emergency departments for medication-related poisoning had taken their grandparents' medicines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And Grandma and Grandpa's house isn't the only place where youngsters might be at risk.
When grandparents visit their grandkids' homes, only 7% put their meds in a locked cupboard or cabinet. Nearly three-quarters keep them in their bag.
And the poll revealed that nearly a third of respondents transfer their prescription medications to other containers -- usually ones that are easier to open.
The danger isn't rare.
Nearly 9 out of 10 grandparents said their grandkids had visited them during the past year. Four out of 10 said they care for their grandchildren at least once a month, and 18% care for them weekly, the poll reported.
One in 10 lives with grandchildren year-round.
The findings suggest that grandparents need more education about safe medication storage when they're around children and teens, report authors said.
"A few simple steps can keep those little ones safe when you're together," said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP, which supported the survey.
"Don't leave medications in your purse or on a kitchen counter -- it's best to keep them locked up. It's also a good idea to go through your medications every few months and safely discard any that are expired or no longer needed," Bryant added.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on children and medicine safety.