The Medicines in My Home program was born in Summer 2004 as a proposal to teach sixth grade students about the safe use of over-the-counter, or non-prescription, medicines. A major goal was to teach students how to find information about their medicine on the Drug Facts label and to give them information to share with their families.
There is only a small amount of published information about the use of nonprescription medicines by children, but the literature suggests that children start to self-medicate about the age of 11 or 12 years. At the age of 12 years, children are legally allowed to be home alone. In addition, some children take on the responsibility of babysitting at this age and may be asked to give a medicine to a younger sibling, a child they are caring for, or to themselves.
Before teenagers reach the age when they are more likely to use or take medicines without direct adult supervision, it is important for children and parents to learn and talk about the medicines they use to treat common health problems. Families should know how to use label information on their over-the-counter medicines, as this information can help them to:
- Take only the medicines they need
- Take the medicines they need correctly
- Avoid taking too much medicine accidentally by using two different products that contain the same medicine
- Know when to call the doctor or pharmacist for help or to answer questions
During the 2005 – 2006 school year, Medicines in My Home completed an in-classroom pilot program in three Montgomery County, Maryland, middle schools. As Medicines in My Home grows into a web-based resource, we want to reach Americans of all ages: children, their parents, their grandparents, their teachers. We should all use our over-the-counter medicines safely, correctly, and only when we need them.