Over the counter nasal sprays or eye drops must be kept out of children's reach as these can cause some serious damage to a child's health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned.

"In the hands of young children who are apt to swallow them, they can cause serious health consequences," said FDA pharmacist Yelena Maslov.

The products contain active ingredients, such as tetrahydrozoline, oxymetazoline, or naphazoline, and are sold under various brand names such as Visine, Dristan and Mucinex, as well as in generic and store brands.

A teaspoon of the eye drop or the nasal spray is about 5mL and just 1 or 2mL of the chemical is enough to make a child sick, the agency said.

"Children who swallow even miniscule amounts of these products can have serious adverse effects," Maslov said.

The agency added that it had identified 96 cases between 1985 and 2012 in which children aged 1 month to 5 years had accidently swallowed nasal sprays or eye drops containing harmful ingredients.

Many children who were reported to have swallowed these products had to be hospitalized due to nausea, vomiting, lethargy (sleepiness), tachycardia (fast heart beat), and coma, FDA said.

"Underreporting of these types of events is common, so it is possible there are additional cases that we may not be aware of," said Maslov.

Every year about 60,000 children get admitted into an ER because their parents or guardians hadn't kept medications out of their reach, FDA said.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in January, 2012, had proposed a law that would require manufacturers to put child-resistant packaging on all products that contain at least 0.08 mg of an imidazoline derivative, FDA said.

Up and Away and Out of Sight - an educational initiative to help parents keep their kids safe from medication-related accidents says that

  • Parents/caregivers must keep all medications ( and vitamins) at a safe place that a child can't access, at all times.
  • All medicines should be kept away immediately.
  • People must never take medicines in front of children.
  • Parents must always relock the safety cap on the medicine bottle.

Local poison control center can be contacted at the time of an emergency related to accidental medication exposure by children at 1-800-222-1222.