In 2015, just under half of exposure cases managed by poison control centers involved children younger than six. Every poison control specialist I know has a story about a “Houdini kid” — a child who popped open that “child-proof” prescription bottle and ate the pills inside like candy in ten seconds flat, or they figured out how to open that cabinet to take a swig of Mom’s “special juice.” Two of the characteristics that we usually nurture and encourage in our kids — intelligence and curiosity — can be disastrous when it comes to keeping them safe.
The experts that answer the poison control hotline 24/7 want parents and caregivers to understand that anything, even water, can be poisonous when used in the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person. And poisoning is not just about swallowing something dangerous. Poisoning can happen via the eyes, skin and lungs, too. So, keeping your kids safe from accidental poisoning is not about getting everything that might be toxic out of your house. That would be an impossible charge (and really inconvenient, too). Rather, effective poisoning prevention is about taking precautions when it comes to using, storing and discarding household substances, as well as being being prepared in the event that the unthinkable happens. Here are four tips to see that through:
1. Be prepared for an emergency
Make sure you have the national, free number for poison control saved in your phone and posted in your home. That number is 1-800-222-1222. Anyone can call any time, whether it’s an emergency or if you just have questions about a product or substance. Don’t be embarrassed to call; calls are private and our poison specialists have heard it all.
2. Practice safe storage habits
The following substances are particularly dangerous for kids and should be stored up, away and out of sight:
- All medications and pharmaceuticals, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and supplements
- Alcoholic beverages, as well as products that contain alcohol like hand sanitizer and screen cleaners
- Tobacco and e-cigarette products, especially liquid nicotine
- Laundry and cleaning supplies, especially single load laundry detergent packets
- Pesticides and insect repellants
- Button batteries, such as those found in singing greeting cards, key fobs and remote controls
- Any type of oil or lubricant, including fragrance oils, tiki torch oils, engine oil, etc.
- Personal care products, such as hair products and contact lens disinfectants
- Other chemicals, such as antifreeze
Alternatively, keep these substances in child-resistant cabinets or containers. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a child-proof lock or container, and there is no substitution for adult supervision and vigilance.
3. Read and follow labels and directions
Make a habit of reviewing the label on anything that has one prior to use, especially before administering medications to children. Take care to follow not only usage directions, but the directions provided for safe storage and disposal as well. Call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if you have any questions about the directions.
4. Detect invisible threats
Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
The old saying is true: an ounce of caution is really worth a pound of cure. But if you find yourself needing help, don’t hesitate to call your poison control center.
CALL poison control at 1 (800) 222-1222. Add this number to your emergency numbers list, save it in your phone and post it in your house. Calls are free, private and answered by experts.
TEXT “POISON” to 797979 to save the complete contact information for poison control in your smartphone.
Krista Osterthaler, M.P.H., Vice President, American Association of Poison Control Centers, [email protected]