What Poisons Could Be Lurking In Your Home?

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on September 4, 2012

in Safety

medicationsA visit from Grandma is always exciting. And for a young child, grandma’s handbag can be a treasure-trove of hard candy, Kleenex and crossword puzzles. But along with lint-covered peppermints can be hidden dangers, like grandma’s prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

Ninety-five percent of unintentional medication overdose visits to emergency departments are caused by a child ingesting medication while unsupervised, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

Accidental poisoning is a real danger in American homes, but there are steps you can take to keep your children safe. Safe Kids Mid-Texas Coalition Coordinator, Susan Burchfield explains how to identify potential dangers and keep them away from your kids.

What is a poison?

“A poison is anything that can be ingested, inhaled or could go through the skin and cause an adverse effect,” Ms. Burchfield said.

And the most common household poison: medications.

“I think it is the most common because it’s so accessible,” she said. “We all have prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs in our home. Many times, we don’t realize that they can be harmful.”

“We all have prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs in our home. Many times, we don’t realize that they can be harmful.”

Blood pressure pills for grandma can mean death to a young child.

“So many medications look like candy. There’s some that you can put on the table and it’s hard to tell the difference between the medicine and a Skittle® or an M&M®,” Ms. Burchfield said.

And it’s even harder for children to identify something as dangerous when it is marketed for them. Gummy vitamins and grape-flavored cough syrup may taste good and have your child’s favorite Disney character on it, but too much of those medications can be potentially harmful.

How can parents prevent this from happening?

Keep things out of reach and sight

Sometimes keeping things on a counter isn’t enough to deter a child from being curious about an enticing bottle. Keeping your medications in a locked cabinet is the best way to keep your kids out of trouble.

Be aware of what visitors bring into the home

Older people, who may carry their medicine around for convenience, may not realize that they’re putting your child at risk by making their pills available to your youngster. Make sure you tell guests to put their belongings in a secure place, so young children won’t be tempted to explore.

Keep medicines secure while traveling

You might be carrying antacids, aspirin or acetaminophen in a backpack for easy-access while traveling, but it could make those things more accessible to your child. Make sure you are administering snacks or anything else that might come out of a bag containing medications.

What are other household items that could be potentially harmful?

“Some cosmetics are poisonous if ingested,” Ms. Burchfield said. “And things like mouthwash and cooking extracts can contain quite a bit of alcohol. It may be sitting there in front of you and you may not realize that it’s poison.”

And poisons aren’t just inside the house.

“Be aware of what you have in your garage,” she said. “Make sure things like: pesticides, fertilizers and gasoline are out of children’s reach.”

Children won’t always think of those things as dangerous. They see Daddy using it and they want to check it out, Ms. Burchfield said.

What do I do if I think my child has ingested something poisonous?

“The first thing parents should do is call the poison control number (1-800-222-1222),” she said. “That is nationwide and it goes to the nearest poison control center. We’re very fortunate because one of those is at Scott & White.”

The center is staffed with specialists, nurses and physicians who are always up to date on what could cause a health issue. They can advise parents on what steps to take and if immediate transport to the hospital is necessary.

And if your child is not breathing or responding, call 911 immediately.

“The bottom line is that although many items have child-resistant packaging, there is still no substitute for active supervision and child-proofing,” Ms. Burchfield said.

For more information about accidental poisoning and what you can do to prevent it, visit safekids.sw.org or cdc.gov.

Has your child ever ingested something harmful? What did you learn from the experience?

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