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Could OTC Eye Drops and Nasal Sprays Put Your Children at Risk?

Child safety advocates are calling on drug companies to make over-the-counter eye drops and nose sprays safer for children. The active ingredients in these medications, known as imidazoline derivatives, have been linked to serious health consequences when swallowed by small children.

Between 1985 and 2012, the Food and Drug Administration identified 96 cases in which children ranging from 1 month to 5 years accidentally swallowed products containing these ingredients. However, it is likely many cases were unreported. Although no deaths have been identified, more than half of the cases (53) required hospitalization because of symptoms that included nausea, vomiting, lethargy (sleepiness), tachycardia (fast heart beat), and coma.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a rule to require child-resistant packaging for all products containing at least 0.08 mg of an imidazoline derivative. However, it has not been finalized.

Advice for Parents and Caregivers

In the meantime, parents are urged to keep these medications, which include Visine, Dristan and Mucinex, out of the reach of children. If a child accidentally swallows OTC redness-relief eye drops or nasal decongestant spray, call your local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) immediately.

The FDA also provides the following tips:

  • Store medicines in a safe location that is too high for young children to reach or see.
  • Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside.
  • If a medicine bottle does have a safety cap, be sure to relock it each time you use it.
  • Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them away and out of sight when they are in your home.
  • Avoid taking medicines in front of young children because they like to mimic adults.