Kira M. Koon
U.S. Army Public Health Command
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24, is a time nationally to recognize the dangers of poisoning and how to prevent it. Poison prevention, however, should be practiced all year to ensure the safety of your loved ones, especially your children.
While all parents want to keep their children healthy and safe, the truth is that the home can be a very dangerous place if parents do not take the right actions to prevent childhood poisoning.
Every day, 374 children in the U.S. are treated in an emergency department, and two children die from poisoning. For every 10 poison exposures in children, about nine occur in the home.
Poisons can be found in almost every room of every house and curious children will often investigate anything that is within their reach. Little hands can lead to big trouble. However, with the right knowledge and information, parents have the ability to play a lifesaving role in protecting their children from household poisonings.
The first step is to realize what items in your home can be poisonous. Everyday items in your home, such as household cleaners, medications and cosmetics, can cause severe illness and even death, if ingested.
The following are examples of common household items that can be poisonous:
Medicine, mouthwash, beauty supplies, cleaners, bug spray, antifreeze, alcohol, cigarettes, and certain household plants.
Once you realize the potential poisons in your home, your next step is to take action to prevent your children from having access to these items.
Follow the tips below and stick to them throughout the year to prevent childhood poisoning in your home:
•Lock them up. Lock up medications, household cleaners, cosmetics and other potentially poisonous household products in locked or childproof cabinets out of children’s sight and reach.
•Keep an eye on them. Never leave potentially poisonous household products unattended while in use, and put products back to their locked places as soon as you are finished using them.
•Don’t keep it if you don’t need it. Safely dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications. When disposing of them, mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter.
•Read the label. Always read labels and follow directions exactly on all medications and household products.
•Keep it original. Keep products in their original containers. Your child may think a cleaning product is a drink if you store it in a soda bottle.
•Refer to medicine as medicine. Never refer to medicine or vitamins as “candy.”
•Know the number. Put the local or nationwide poison control center phone number, (800) 222-1222, on or near every telephone in your house and program it into your cell phone.
The poison control center is open 24/7. Call the poison control center or 911 if you think a child has been poisoned.
Remember, you have the ability to prevent poisons in your home.
For more information on childhood poisoning prevention, see the following resources:
•U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/safechild/poisoning.
•Safe Kids USA, Inc., www.safekids.org/safety-basics/safety-resources-by-risk-area/poison/.
•Poison Prevention.org, www.poisonprevention.org.