Only You Can Prevent Accidental Poisoning

In the fall of 1961 Congress passed a joint resolution requesting that the President of the United States proclaim the third week of March National Poison Prevention Week. On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the proclamation to make it happen. (Note to children: yes, Congress and a President once actually agreed on something!)

Just kidding. This isn’t about politics. It’s about making your home safe for you and your children because the Consumer Product Safety Commission tells us that roughly “90,000 children are seen in emergency departments each year due to unintentional poison exposures.

“Nine out of ten poison incidents involving children occur in the home. Unintentional poisonings are preventable. From the familiar to the more innocent looking, poison dangers can lurk throughout the home. To reduce the risk of unintentional poisoning, think beyond the medicine and kitchen cabinets,” they advise.

Going out on a limb, I’m going to say that most parents are diligent about keeping medications away from children, but what happens when they visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors? Are they as mindful? Do they use the child-resistant closures? Or, do they keep their meds in one of those day-minders left out on the kitchen table so they’ll remember to take them?

“Most emergency room visits involving two-year-olds happen after children find and eat or drink medicines when adults aren’t looking. And each year, the nation’s poison control centers field more than two million calls because of unintentional poisonings,” CPSC says.

Put this number into your phone, if you haven’t done so already: 1-800-222-1222. This is the 24-hour a day, seven-days a week poison center number that you will call if someone has ingested something you suspect to be poisonous. Yes, that’s even before you dial 911.

No one should take medications that aren’t prescribed for them. Do not share or sell prescription drugs and keep them in a safe place where only you can get to them. That means out of the reach of children. Do not let children dispense their own medicines. Follow the directions on the labels and read the warnings. And, a really good piece of advice from the Centers for Disease Control is to “turn on a light when you give or take medicines at night so that you know you have the correct amount of the right medicine.”

Laundry soap packets often look like they’d be fun to play with because they’re colorful and soft and resemble familiar items like candy, toys and teething products.

“In 2012 alone, CPSC staff learned of about 500 incidents involving children and adults who were injured by the product. Children have required hospitalization from ingesting the product due to loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing. Eye contact with detergent from ruptured packets has also resulted in medical treatment for severe irritation and temporary vision loss due to ocular burns.”

While you’re locking up the laundry soap, put all household cleaners and chemicals in there too. Do not use food containers to store household products, keep them all in their original containers that way you don’t have to try to remember, or sniff the product to see, what it is.

The Health Resources and Services Administration has a great list of how to poison proof your home. One thing they mention is about art supplies.

“Some art products are mixtures of chemicals. They can be dangerous if not used correctly. Make sure children use art products safely by reading and following directions. Do not eat or drink while using them. Wash skin immediately after contact. Clean equipment and wipe down tables, desks, and counters,” HRSA says. And, I’ll remind you to keep those products in their original containers as well.

Another thing to note is that alcoholic beverages can be poisonous to children, so lock the liquor cabinet. And, while you’re at it, read the label of your mouthwash to see if it contains alcohol.

There are many more potentially poisonous items in and around the house. Be sure you’re aware of them, warn your family and protect yourself from these hazards.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.