10 Poison Prevention Tips
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison control centers receive 10,830 calls each day. Here are 10 things you need to know now to keep your family safe from accidental poisonings
Know the Common Culprits
“Many household products are poisonous, including detergents, medicines, and insect or plant killers,” says Dr. Vera Frumin, chairperson of pediatrics at Holy Redeemer Hospital and Medical Center in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. “These products are harmful if they are swallowed, come in contact with the skin or eyes or if they are inhaled.” Other common examples of poisons include aspirin, acetaminophen, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, iron pills, moth balls, furniture polish, drain cleaners, weed killers, insect or rat poisons, lye, paint thinners, dishwasher detergent, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, kerosene, and lamp oil.
Read labels, says Meri-K Appy, president of the Washington-based Home Safety Council, and look for the signal word. “The signal word will be the word on the label which is in all caps, and it is the one to pay attention to,” Appy says. “If you see ‘CAUTION,’ ‘WARNING,’ ‘DANGER,’ or even ‘POISON,’ those are products that you want to secure carefully.”
Keep Original Containers
Keep medicines and household products in their original containers. “People tend to transfer things to a different container, especially pills, say, from a big bottle to a smaller bottle,” Appy says. “But when you do that, you may end up not remembering what was in the smaller bottle or how much was in it.” If medications or products have expired, dispose of them according to the package instructions.
Get Down on Their Level
To really know what your child might come in contact with, see things from his point of view, says Dr. Seema Csukas, director of community health development and advocacy at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta. “Crawl around on the floor so you get the child’s view of the world and what is accessible to him,” she says. Look for products you rarely use, stored in low cabinets and forgotten. In the garage or basement, look for spilled chemicals.
Watch What Others Bring into Your Home
“One of the more common problems is when grandparents come over, and there’s Grandma’s purse,” says Dr. Lynette Mazur, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. This can be very attractive to a small child. “It always has candy in it, and it’s sitting right there on the floor,” she says. However, Grandma’s purse may also contain medication, and since she doesn’t have small children at home anymore, her medication may not be in child-resistant packaging. And this applies to everyone visiting your home, not just grandma.
"Child-Resistant" Doesn't Mean "Childproof"
The CPSC estimates that child-resistant packaging has saved hundreds of lives since its introduction in the early 1970s. However, it is important to remember that child-resistant packaging can only make toxic substances more difficult to get into—not impossible. “Kids are good with their hands, and they can get into stuff you’d never imagine that they could get into,” says Jerry Weisenhahn, a pharmacist with the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center.
Keep Out of Reach
Kids under the age of 4 are more likely to be hospitalized after unintentionally swallowing medicines than all other unintentional injuries, Appy says. All medicines, including over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, should be stored out of your child’s reach in a cabinet or container closed with a child safety lock, she says. In addition, never refer to medicine as “candy,” and avoid taking medicine in front of small children, as they may try to imitate you.
The Rules for Syrup of Ipecac
Once found in nearly every first-aid kit, syrup of ipecac is an over-the-counter drug used to induce vomiting. However, syrup of ipecac is no longer recommended. “Both the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the American Academy of Pediatrics have determined that there is virtually no instance for which syrup of ipecac would be used in the home,” Weisenhahn says. Syrup of ipecac doesn’t empty the stomach contents as effectively as once thought, and it can actually make certain poisoning situations worse. If you currently have syrup of ipecac in your home, you should dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet and then throwing away the container.
Know the Plants In and Around Your Yard
Most families have no idea what might be growing in or around their yard, says Weisenhahn. That’s bad news because even if you know your kids would never eat the berries on the bush by the fence, your neighbors’ kids might.
Prepare in advance by looking around your yard and becoming familiar with everything growing in it. If you come across a plant you can’t identify, take a cutting to a local nursery for identification. In the event a child consumes some part of the plant, you’ll be able to give the poison center correct information—possibly saving precious minutes.
A few common poisonous plants include azalea, oleander, daffodil bulbs, foxglove, hyacinth, hydrangea, larkspur, lupine, rhododendron, caladium, holly, lantana, privet, wisteria, and yew.
Know the Number: 1-800-222-1222
This is a national number that will direct you to their nearest poison center. You should keep the hotline number posted by all phones in your home and programmed into your mobile phone.
If you even suspect that your child has gotten into something poisonous, call the poison center hotline right away. Bring the container of whatever substance was involved with you to the phone (the label may offer valuable information), and be ready to provide your child’s age, weight, the time the incident occurred, and how much of the substance was taken.
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