Doctors say that over-the-counter and prescription products should undergo design changes because the current "poison proofing" packaging is still insufficient to protect children from poisoning, as a new study on accidental poisonings in children was released.

A study published Friday found that each year, half million children 5 years-old or younger are exposed to medicines in a potential poisoning event and more than 50,000 visit the emergency room. The number of children who needed emergency department care due to possible poisoning increased by 22 percent between 2001 and 2008. Calls to poison centers rose in the same period of time, with self-ingestion or dosing errors being two reasons for the poisonings.

“The problem of pediatric poisoning in the U.S. is getting worse, not better,” said Dr. Randall Bond from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, who authored the study with colleagues.

The authors attributed this increase to greater availability of, and access to medications in the childrens’ homes. They emphasized the prevention role adults play in keeping drugs out of the reach of children. They also recommended specific packaging changes to over-the-counter and prescription products.

"The largest potential benefit would come from packaging design changes that reduce the quantity a child could quickly and easily access in a self-ingestion episode, like flow restrictors on liquids and one-at-a-time tablet dispensing containers,” Dr. Bond suggested.

“We need to know the medications and ingestion circumstances that contribute most to [emergency department] visits, hospitalization, and harm,” Dr. Bond added in the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics Friday.

Researchers found a total of 544,133 children 5 years of age and younger that were poisoned between 2001 and 2008, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers.