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J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2006 Jul;106(7):405-11.

"Hang Up Your Pocketbook" -- an easy intervention for the granny syndrome: grandparents as a risk factor in unintentional pediatric exposures to pharmaceuticals.

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Long Island Regional Poison and Drug Information Center, Winthrop University Hospital, 259 First Street, Mineola, NY 11501-3957, USA.



Although the circumstances are not well studied, grandparents' medications account for 10% to 20% of unintentional pediatric intoxications in the United States.


To characterize circumstances leading to and outcomes from pediatric pharmaceutical exposures. To identify preventable risk factors associated with this pattern of injury, referred to as the "granny syndrome."


Retrospective review of records of telephone calls made to a certified regional poison control center in the United States. Records were analyzed for all calls concerning children aged 6 years or younger who were exposed to grandparents' medication(s). For statistical analysis, regression and chi(2) analysis as well as Fisher exact tests were used. The sample size provided 80% power to detect a 10% difference at the 5% level of significance. Statistical significance was set at P< or =.05.


Use of child-resistant containers (CRCs), the location of pharmaceuticals prior to pediatric ingestion, and drug classes involved (eg, analgesics, cardiovascular drugs).


Of the 200 incidents analyzed, 90 (45%) cases involved CRCs, and 110 (55%) involved containers that were not child resistant. For these incidents, the average age of the child was 18.8 months; the grandparent was aged on average 58.7 years. Most medications had been placed on tables or countertops (91 [46%]), low shelves (57 [29%]), or in pocketbooks (34 [17%]). The type of container in which the pharmacologic agent was stored (CRC vs non-CRC) was not statistically significant (P>.1). Ease of access to medication, regardless of the type of container used, was the only statistically significant outcome (P<.001). In the present study, accidental pediatric exposures most frequently involved cardiovascular (90 [45%]), analgesic (84 [42%]), and psychotropic (32 [16%]) medications.


Pediatric exposure to pharmaceutical agents is a preventable cause of injury. Physicians have an important opportunity to assist in preventing pediatric pharmaceutical exposures by instructing parents and grandparents on how to better limit children's access to medications as an essential component to enhance child safety.

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