Media Contact: Keith.O’Connor@baystatehealth.org, 413-794-7656
SPRINGFIELD – From putting the laundry bleach on the top shelf to locking up leftover paint cans in the shed, poison prevention steps like these can mean all the difference between keeping a curious child safe and a trip to the emergency room.
In 2010 alone, 2.4 million calls to Poison Control Centers involved children younger than five years old and over 90 percent of them occurred in the home. Poisonings can often occur from accidentally ingesting prescription medicine or common household cleaners.
National Poison Prevention Week, March 16-22, is a nationally designated observance to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.
“Children ages six and under are particularly vulnerable to poisonings due to their innate desire to put everything in their mouths,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator, Western Massachusetts Safe Kids Coalition headquartered at
Baystate Children’s Hospital.
“Children can be curious, but curiosity can turn dangerous if kids are getting under the kitchen sink or into the medicine cabinet where hazardous chemicals and adult medicines are kept,” said Summers.
Safe Kids Worldwide – a global organization dedicated to protecting young children from unintentional injury – recommends the following easy-to-follow tips to help avoid poisonings:
Keep Cleaners and Other Toxic Products Out of Reach
• Store all household cleaning products out of sight and reach of children.
• Secure child safety locks on cabinets containing poisonous/toxic items.
• Read product labels to find out what can be hazardous to kids.
• Don’t leave poisonous products unattended while in use.
• Only store cleaning products in their original containers. Never store these products in food containers, where they could be easily mistaken for something to eat or drink.
• Throw away old medicines and other potential poisons.
Check Your Purse for Potential Hazards
• Be aware of any medications or makeup that may be in your handbag.
• Store handbags out of reach of young children if you carry medication or makeup.
Use Original, Child-Resistant Packaging
• Buy child-resistant packages when available.
• Keep products in their original packages to avoid confusion.
Keep Medicines Up and Away
• Make sure that all medications, including vitamins, are stored out of reach and out of sight of children.
• Don’t leave medicine on the counter between dosing. Always put medicines and vitamins away after use.
Have Poison Control on Speed Dial
• Program the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) into your home and cell phone and post it near your phone or refrigerator.
• Poison control centers offer fast, free, confidential help in English and Spanish. Most poisonings are resolved over the phone. The number works from anywhere in the United States 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call poison control. If your child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.
“I can’t stress enough the need for passive mechanisms to keep children safe. Cabinet locks and child-resistant closures need to be in place at all times in the child’s home, as well as at other locations they may frequent such as a grandparent’s house,” said Dr. Holly Perryof the Family Pediatric Emergency Department
According to Dr. Perry, the most common poisonings seen in the pediatric emergency department among children younger than six include ingesting family member’s medications, cleaning products or hydrocarbons such as lamp oil and infusion products used in aroma therapy.
“Aroma therapy oils tend to smell good and children will often take a swig of them,” said
Dr. Perry, who also noted all medications should be stored out of reach, including pill bottles and multi-dose pill boxes.
Dr. Perry cautioned parents never to make their child throw up the poison.
“If your child is in distress such as gasping for breath or drooling, you should immediately call 911 and get them to the emergency department. If not, then you should call the Poison Control Center. You will be connected to an expert in poisonings, typically in less than five minutes. For many poisonings, children can be watched at home and the Poison Control Center has a great deal of experience in guiding parents in these matters. They will even follow up with a call back to check on how your child is doing if it is decided the child can be watched at home,” said
In other poison prevention news, parents should also check homes built before 1978 for lead-
based paint and remove any peeling paint on chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
children’s toys and pacifiers should be regularly washed to reduce the risk of coming into contact with lead or lead-contaminated dust. Also, carbon monoxide alarms (CO detectors) should be installed on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas, and keep them at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances. And, be sure to check and replace CO detector batteries at least yearly.
For more information on poison prevention, visit www.safekids.org or www.poisonprevention.org.
For more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit www.baystatehealth.org/bch.