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National Poison Prevention Week: keeping your children safe
Millions of poisonings occur each year. Because children younger than 6 are naturally curious and eager to explore their environment, they comprise nearly half of all poison exposures! Common household items, such as cosmetics and personal care products, cleaning substances, analgesics/medications and foreign bodies/toys, lead the list of the most common substances implicated in pediatric exposures. Nearly all, more than 90 percent, of poisonings occur in the home, so parents and caregivers should take the following steps to prevent these unintentional injuries:
- Periodically survey your home to evaluate all injury and poison hazards. Remember to ask family (i.e., grandparents) or friends to check and childproof their home prior to visiting.
- Purchase the least toxic products available and avoid storing large amounts of toxic products in your home.
- Teach children not to eat or drink anything unless it is given to them by an adult.
- Keep harmful products, including medications, cleaning and laundry products (i.e., laundry detergent pods), paints/varnishes, wood cleaners, antifreeze and pesticides, in their ORIGINAL containers, and up and out of a child’s sight and reach.
- Use safety latches or locks on drawers and cabinets where you keep dangerous items.
- Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.
- Never leave alcohol or electronic cigarettes/nicotine refill cartridges within a child’s reach.
- Never refer to medicine, including chewable vitamins, as candy.
- Always read labels with care before using any product or medication.
- Always use the pharmacy-issued, milliliter-based dosing device that is packaged with the medication. Never use teaspoons or tablespoons to measure out medication.
- Ensure that all dangerous substances have a childproof cap and always replace the safety caps immediately after a product’s use.
- Secure and check key fobs, heart monitors, watches, greeting cards, musical children’s books and toys. These products may contain button batteries and if ingested, can cause severe internal injury.
- Keep high-powered magnets, such as Buckyballs, out of the home and office. If multiple magnets are swallowed, severe injury such as intestinal perforation and death, can occur.
Typically, poisonings are unexpected, so being prepared for a potential exposure can help ensure timely and appropriate care for your child or loved one! Depending on the type of poisoning (i.e., inhalation of carbon monoxide, ingestion of medication/household product/plant, chemical exposure of eye/mouth/skin), your child may require in-home treatment and observation, a follow-up appointment with your pediatrician, or an emergency center visit. If your child appears well or has mild symptoms, you should call the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or your pediatrician to help determine how best to care for your child. However, if your child is unresponsive or unconscious, having difficulty or not breathing, having convulsions or seizures, or appears very ill, you should call 911 immediately!