Go Ask Mom

Keep Kids Safe: Avoid these three deadly risks at home

Limiting access to medicine, alcohol, and firearms are some of the best ways parents can help to prevent injury and death - especially if kids and teens are home without adult supervision.

Posted Updated
Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler
, Poe Center health educator
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Raleigh's Poe Center for Health Education's blog.

As summer arrives, kids are spending more time at home, often unsupervised. To keep them safe, limiting access to medicine, alcohol, and firearms are some of the best things parents can do to prevent injury and death.

When it comes to alcohol, 72% of teens who drink say they did not pay for the alcohol, but got it from a friend or family member or took it without permission. Imagine the reduction in injury from underage drinking if even a fraction of those kids did not have easy access to alcohol.
When it comes to firearms, in a 2015 survey, among the 2,800 children and teens who died by gunfire, 785 of those deaths were linked to an unlocked firearm. Imagine if those 785 youth did not have easy access to a gun.

To reduce the potential of injury or death by medicine, alcohol or firearms, here are some steps parents can take to limit access to these items in the home.

Tips for limiting access to medication

  • Hide and lock medicines, or remove them from the house.
  • Monitor quantities of medicine (both prescription and over-the-counter).
  • Control access to prescriptions written for youth and monitor refills.
  • Educate children about not sharing their prescriptions with friends.
  • Properly dispose of medicine at designated drop-off sites and use medicine disposal bags.
  • Monitor internet usage as youth might purchase drugs from illegitimate pharmacy sites.

Tips for preventing access alcohol

  • Ensure youth cannot access alcohol without parents’ knowledge.
  • Tell your children that the expectation is they should not drink.
  • Role play refusal skills with your children.
  • Talk to parents who host parties and share your expectations.
  • Keep alcohol in a locked cabinet and monitor quantities.
  • Consider using a separate locked fridge for chilled alcohol.
  • Monitor quantities of any alcohol in the refrigerator and use bottle top locks.
  • If any adult in the home misuses illicit drugs or alcohol, seek treatment.

Tips for preventing access to guns

  • Firearms should be keep locked and out of reach of children and youth.
  • Keys to locked cabinets should be kept hidden from children and youth.
  • Ammunition should be kept separately.
  • If a locked cabinet is not an option, use trigger locks.
  • If a child spends time at a friend’s home, ask if firearms are kept locked up, just as you would ask about medicine and alcohol.
  • Role play with your child how to react if they see a gun at a friend’s house.
In addition to limiting access to medicine and alcohol, parents also should learn about the triggers for depression, anxiety, and suicide among youth, all of which increases the risk of substance use. Warning signs include withdrawal from friends, family and once-loved activities, a sudden drop in grades, changes in typical behavior patterns, increased irritability, anger, sadness, and crying, and increase use of alcohol or drugs.

Taking just a few simple steps and asking the right questions can prevent injury and even save a child's life.


Copyright 2024 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.