It only takes a moment…a fraction of a moment…a turned back…an unlocked cabinet…a detergent pod left on the counter…a bottle of nail polish remover sitting next to the sink…or a Tylenol bottle left open in the bottom of a purse…only a moment for the unthinkable to happen. Every day, according to the CDC over 300 children are treated in emergency rooms across the United States due to poisonings. Every day 2 of these children die. And, while you might say that this could never happen in your home…9 out of 10 poisonings do occur at home.
Just last week I realized that my daughter wasn’t her usual noisy self. I had left her coloring at the kitchen table while I started on dinner, but in the two seconds that my back was turned she had snuck into the pantry. I found her crouched on the floor with something in her mouth! I began to panic. What had she found? Thankfully, it was only a girl scout cookie, but she had somehow managed to sneak it from a shelf far beyond her reach. On that same shelf (that I assumed to be baby proof distance) I had my vitamins, over the counter pain killers, and cold medications neatly stacked…all with child proof lids, but still! Heartworm pills for the dog in non-baby proofed punch out aluminum covered tabs were only one shelf higher. Could she possibly reach them too? Wake up call for this mama!
Baby proofing a house is hard work. While latches on cupboards are incredibly important here are a few additional tips to make sure that your little one doesn’t get his or her hands and mouth on something harmful. Medications, cleaning supplies, and even makeup can be toxic to your toddler or infant.
TIPS TO PREVENT POISONING:
1. KNOW WHAT CAN HARM
While some items stand out as obviously harmful, some aren’t quite as glaring. Everyone knows to keep medications and cleaning supplies away from children, but laundry pods? Yes, these small packets used in the dishwasher and now even the washing machine have introduced a new vehicle for poisoning. They are small enough for a little hand to hold, and they look delicious. Makeup can be equally alarming. Eye makeup remover and many other beauty products can also be harmful if ingested. Even certain plants can be poisonous. Art supplies often contain harmful chemicals if ingested. Keep all of these out of reach and locked away.
2. LOCK THEM AWAY
This is referring to harmful substance…NOT YOUR CHILDREN! Make sure that all cleaning supplies, medications, and anything potentially toxic is out of reach, out of sight, and locked away from your children. Kids are little Houdini’s. Putting something harmful one shelf level above their reach is not going to cut it! They grow! You forget! And, then one day soon they can reach it or climb to it. Use safety features to lock low kitchen and bathroom cupboards that house cleaning supplies. Make sure that your laundry detergent is on a high shelf that is impossible for your toddler to access. Also be sure to keep all medications, cleaning supplies, and any other potentially poisonous chemicals in their original containers or bottles. This prevents confusion and mistaken ingestion.
3. CALL IT WHAT IT IS!
Don’t call your medication “CANDY.” It is not candy! Medicine is medicine. It is made to heal, but it can be deadly if taken by the wrong person or in incorrect doses. Calling poison candy is a recipe for disaster and injury!
4. EDUCATE Grandparents and babysitters (pill boxes are not baby proof!)
Most likely you are not the only person watching your child 24/7. If your child is going to another home, make sure that the same principles for safety are established in that home as well. If your baby sitter is coming to your home, let her know where you keep potentially harmful substances and make sure that she uses the baby proofing latches appropriately. Grandparents are often on several medications. Make sure that these medicines are not loosely stored in plastic bags, on the counter top, or even pill boxes in their purse. Toddlers love playing with things that open and close. Pill boxes are a perfect little toy. Also, make sure that anyone watching your child has the number for poison control programmed into their phone or in a very visible place.
5. Have the POISON CONTROL (1-800-222-1222) number programmed in your phone and in a visible place
Yes, I am repeating myself! Make sure that you, anyone watching your child, and grandparents all have the number for Poison Control programmed into your phones. Leave the number in a visible place where you (or anyone in your home) can always find it (such as the refrigerator door) or on the door to the garage.
WHAT TO DO IF THE UNTHINKABLE (Poisoning) HAPPENS:
1. Don’t take time to freak out…instead grab your phone!
CALL 911 first if the child is not responding, has collapsed, or is not breathing. You want to make sure that help is on the way as quickly as possible. If the child is awake and responding first CALL POISON CONTROL (1-800-222-1222). Do not call your pediatrician or family physician first. They will simply connect you with poison control or they will have you hang up and call 911. Poison control is trained to tell you exactly what to do depending on what your child has ingested.
2. Have This Information Ready if Possible
- the child’s age and weight
- the container or bottle of the poison if it is available
- the approximate time when the poisoning occurred (your best guess is fine)
- the address where the poisoning occurred
3. Don’t Hang Up
While you may be tempted to hang up the phone if you are panicking or if your child isn’t doing well…DON’T HANG UP! Listen to the instructions from either the Emergency Room or Poison Control. Their advice is incredibly important and lifesaving. Do what they tell you to do! Every minute counts.
4. Do Not Use Syrup of Ipecac
While many grandparents would tell you that this is the “cure-all” for poisoning, this is not the case. In the past, syrup of ipecac was recommended after a harmful ingestion. This medication causes vomiting. While this may bring the poison out, it may also be harmful in the process. Vomiting up a toxic chemical may lead to severe chemical burns in the throat. It can also lead to choking on the toxic chemical, allowing some of the chemical to move into the lungs and smaller airways.
While no parent, grandparent, or caregiver ever wants to think that a child could be poisoned on their watch…it unfortunately does happen. Children are naturally curious, and little ones love to put things in their mouths. Take the steps above to help protect your child. For more information on safety and poison prevention click on the highlighted links above.