Poison prevention tips for parents

By Giridhar Guntreddi, MD, FAAP Mar 07, 2017

1Poison prevention tips to keep your children safe.

Everyday common substances can poison children. In fact, the 55 U.S. Poison Control Centers provided telephone guidance to nearly 2.2 million human poison exposures in 2014. This breaks down to 671 exposures reported per 100,000 people with the highest number of incidents occurring in one- and two-year olds (8,327 and 8,085 exposures, respectively, per 100,000 children). Additionally, children younger than six made up nearly half — 48 percent — of all poison exposures.

Parents can help keep their children safe by following a few simple steps.

Be prepared.

You never know when an emergency might arise, and when it does, knowing you are prepared will help.

  • Save the Poison Control number. Families should put the Poison Control number ((800) 222-1222, U.S. only) in, on or near their phones. Hang it on your refrigerator, save it in your cell phone contacts or any location that works best for you. Best-case scenario? You never need it. Worst-case scenario? You don’t waste precious moments looking up the number.
  • Save the Poison Control webpage or app. Place poisoncontrol.org as a browser favorite or download the app on your cell phone. Again, you might never need it, but if you do, you will appreciate having it readily available.
  • Know when to call Poison Control and when to call 911. If you child collapsed, stops breathing or has a seizure, please call 911.
  • Update yourself on CPR and abdominal thrusts. Please update yourself regarding the basic CPR course — most of the time it may be a life-saving measure for your children before any emergency help arrives.

Alarm your home.

Install a carbon monoxide alarm in every sleeping area of your home. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and over 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room for carbon monoxide poisoning with over 4,000 people hospitalized.

Proof your home.

Poison-proof your home and anywhere your child spends time regularly. Ensure each room has been proofed for poisons, medications and other hazardous chemicals. Suggested ways to poison-proof:

  • Ask guests to store medications in places where children cannot reach.
  • Avoid storing your medications in places that are easily accessible, such as pillboxes, purses, backpacks and coat pockets.
  • Beware of any legal or illegal drugs that guests may bring into your home.
  • Do not leave poisonous products unattended while in use. Many incidents happen when adults are distracted for a moment on the phone or at the door.
  • Keep cleaning products in their original containers.
  • Keep purses out of your child’s reach.
  • Keep potentially poisonous products in their original containers. Never place potentially poisonous products in another container.
  • Lock household products and medicines out of your child’s reach.
  • Replace caps securely.
  • Store household products in a different place from food and medicine.
  • Use child-resistant packaging.

Install child safety locks.

Child safety locks should be installed on cabinets where you have stored potentially poisonous items, pills and liquids. This includes the kitchens and bathrooms.

Use medicines safely.

  • Do ask your child’s pediatrician before giving any herbal medicine or supplement.
  • Do keep a pill reminder, cell phone reminder or note pad for correct time of administration.
  • Do read the label before taking medicine or giving medicine to others, especially children. Follow the instructions exactly as ordered.
  • Do store medicines in high cabinets far from reach.
  • Do use the correct dosing syringe or cup — do NOT use a household spoon.
  • Don’t refer to medicine as candy.
  • Don’t prepare or give medicine for a child in the dark. You can give the wrong dose or medicine.

Store hazardous household products correctly.

Especially hazardous household products should ALWAYS be kept out of a child’s reach. Buy small quantities only and discard unneeded extra safely. These hazardous products include:

  • Antifreeze
  • Drain cleaners
  • Hydrocarbons (gasoline, oils, paint thinners)
  • Insecticides
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Windshield washer solutions

Store medications correctly.

  • Make sure that all medications including vitamins and adult medicines are stored out of reach and out of sight of children.
  • Put medicines out of reach after each use.

Keep button batteries out of reach of children.

Secure the battery compartment on remote controls, key fobs, cameras, watches, flameless candles and every battery-powered product. Why? Batteries lodged in the esophagus can burn a hole in just TWO hours, causing death or damage that will require feeding tubes, breathing tubes and extensive surgical repair.

Protect children from alcohol exposure.

  • Do not leave alcoholic drinks where children can reach them. When drinking an alcoholic beverage, store the container out of a child’s immediate reach.
  • Keep unopened containers of alcohol in a locked cabinet far from children’s reach.

Rid your cabinets of expired items.

Always periodically check the cabinets and get rid of expired pills, supplements, household products and other hazardous chemicals. Please follow the U.S. Food & Drug instructions for safe disposal of pills and chemicals.

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