Exposure to toxins is an important and preventable cause of childhood injury. Children are by nature curious and lack the judgment to avoid many harmful exposures. Keeping kids safe from poisoning involves building up layers of protection, from securing dangerous substances in the home environment to supervising children constantly.
Baby-Proof Your Home
Once children are mobile, it is time to baby-proof the home. Crawl around on all fours to see your home from a baby’s eye view. Be sure to child-proof electrical outlets, lock cabinets and secure book shelves and TVs so that they cannot be pulled down. In addition, it is important to move potential toxins out of your child’s reach. Of course, substances like bleach, insecticide, antifreeze and household cleaners need to be locked up, but remember that hand sanitizer, laundry detergent pods, e-cigarette vials and fragrant oils need to be secured, too.
Keep Drugs Out of Reach
Never store medications in a purse or diaper bag and make sure that houseguests’ belongings are out of children’s reach, as well. Even small doses of common drugs can be potentially lethal to small children. A child can ingest a grandparent’s high blood pressure medication, for example, with dangerous consequences.
Drugs and supplements need to be secured even if the bottle has a child resistant cap. According to the Pharmacy Times, “to be child-resistant, 85% of tested children less than 5 years old must not be able to open the package within 5 minutes.”1 Five minutes is not much time at all, and if 85% of children have a hard time opening a package, then 15% have no trouble. Child resistant caps are really a last line of defense; the goal should be to keep children from reaching this obstacle at all.
Add Poison Control to Your Contacts
Finally, if you don’t have the Poison Control number in your phone’s contact list, put it in now. You can call 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for fast, reliable help from the experts. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop – call as soon as you suspect your child may have had a dangerous exposure to something through the mouth, skin, eyes or lungs. Even doctors call Poison Control for guidance since it is such a valuable resource.
Dr. Suzanne Condron is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center whose clinical interests include obesity, nutrition, allergies, asthma, childhood development, literacy, infectious diseases and preventive medicine.
1 Gaunt , Michael J., PharmD . Child-resistant Does Not Mean Childproof. Published Online: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2007/2007-05/2007-05-6518