- Identify information found in dosing instructions on drug facts labels (when, how, and how often to take the medicine)
- Explain the importance of reading and understanding dosing information and tools
- Discuss possible consequences of not following dosing instructions
- Describe what makes a location safe or unsafe for medicine storage and the consequences of improper storage
- Brainstorm ways students can talk to family members about safe medicine storage and safe disposal
- Over-the-Counter Medicine Safety Classroom Poster printable
- Bottle for liquid medicine filled with colored water
- Dosing device that came with liquid medicine
- Kitchen spoons of different sizes
- Additional medicine bottle (spray or dropper) filled with colored water
- Accurate Medicine Dosing printable
- Safe Medicine Storage printable
- OTC Medicine Safety Answer Key printable
- Optional: Medicine Safety for Families Newsletter printable
- Emphasize to students that they should never take medicine without the supervision of a parent or trusted adult.
- Make copies of the printables for each student in your class.
Step 1: Begin with a class discussion about the importance of using the right tools when measuring different things. Ask students:
● If I wanted to measure how far it is from the school to my house, would I use a ruler? Why or why not?
● What are some different ways that people make mistakes when measuring things?
Step 2: Encourage students to think about why accurate measurements are important. Ask:
● When is it okay to get less-accurate measurements or to estimate?
● When is it important to get really accurate measurements? Why?
Step 3: Explain that students are going to learn why reading and understanding dosing instructions is important, and why medicines should always be measured using the proper dosing devices under adult supervision.
Step 4: Ask students to think back to the previous lesson on Obtaining Information From a Drug Facts Label.
● What types of measurements are used to measure doses of a medicine? (Answers may include milliliters, tablets, drops, sprays, etc.)
Step 5: Show students a medicine bottle that recommends a dose of 2 teaspoons of medicine. Then take out a handful of different-size household spoons, the kind that students might find in their kitchen drawers at home. Measure out 2 spoonfuls of “medicine” into any of the spoons, pouring the measured liquid into a dosing cup that has an accurate measurement for 2 teaspoons. Discuss the discrepancy with the class.
Step 6: Read the dosing information for the second medicine bottle (e.g. nasal spray or eye drops). Demonstrate that while it may be difficult for us to measure out 50 mcg of a nasal spray or 1 milliliter of eye drops, the provided dosing device eliminates any guesswork.
Step 7: Distribute the Accurate Medicine Dosing printable. Have students complete the worksheet either individually or as a class.
Step 8: Talk about how measuring doses incorrectly (measuring out tablespoons instead of teaspoons, for example) can cause an overdose or underdose. Reinforce the importance of always communicating with a trusted adult before taking any medicine.
Step 9: Ask students to name the locations where medicines are stored in their households. Write answers on the board. Common answers may include kitchen cabinet, bathroom cabinets, or parents’ or trusted adult’s bedroom. As students answer, ask for specifics.
● Are the medicines in drawers or cabinets or on the countertop?
● Are the medicines easy for young children to see or reach?
Get students thinking about how easy it is for young children in the house to find medicine. Explain that medicines need to be kept out of reach and sight of their naturally curious younger brothers and sisters, or young visitors to their home.
Step 10: Distribute the Is It Stored Safely? printable. Explain to students that they are looking at the inside of a home and it is their job to identify the medicine storage errors that could lead to accidental medicine poisoning.
Step 11: Ask students how their families get rid of unused medicine. Common answers may include putting the medicine in the trash or flushing the medicine.
Step 12: Explain to students that just as safe storage is important for keeping medicines away from people who shouldn’t have them, safe disposal is also important. Before throwing away OTC medicines, mix them with an unappealing substance (such as kitty litter or coffee grounds) and place them in a closed container (such as a sealed plastic bag). The FDA has additional guidelines for certain prescription medicines (like disposal by flushing or using the National Take-Back Initiative). The Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can answer any questions you have about how to dispose of medicines.
● Why do you think that the FDA has these guidelines for safe disposal of medicines?
● What could happen if a medicine is not disposed of properly?
Step 13: Have students develop a plan for teaching the concept of using correct measuring tools for medicines to a younger child.
1. Ask students to create a tool or advertisement to help people remember how to keep a home medicine-safe. Some possibilities include:
● An idea for an app that can help families remember all of the ways to make a home medicine-safe. Research for the app idea may involve connecting with a local health expert (pharmacist, nurse, etc.).
● A jingle for the Poison Control Center’s purpose and phone number
● A mnemonic device to remember the directions for safe medicine storage and disposal
● A survey to distribute to families to determine how medicine-safe their home is
If you haven’t already, send home the Medicine Safety for Families Newsletter printable so students may continue the discussion at home. Encourage students to discuss what they have learned about the Poison Help number, to post the number in a visible place in their homes, and to get family members to save the number in their mobile phones.