Poison Prevention Week, which is the third full week of March, reminds parents to make sure they store hazardous materials such as cleaning products or medication out of their children’s reach.
National Poison Prevention Week is a week nationally designated by Congress since 1961 to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. Child-resistant packaging is credited with saving hundreds of children’s lives since its introduction in the 1970s. Still, there is no substitute for active supervision and childproofing.
On average, each year unintentional poisoning is the cause of death for approximately 101 children ages 14 years and under in the U.S. Poison control centers received 3.9 million calls in 2010 as a result of accidental poisoning, with children younger than age 6 accounting for about half of those poison exposure calls. Nearly 90 percent of these toxic exposures to children occur in the home.
While medications are the predominant cause of poisonings among young children, it’s important to note that children are also poisoned by non-pharmaceutical products such as cosmetics, cleansers, personal care products, plants, pesticides, art supplies, alcohol and toys.
“It doesn’t take much to make a small child sick,” says Cherie Sage, State Director of Safe Kids Kansas. “Almost half of poison exposures for children under the age of 5 are caused by medicine. Children have faster metabolisms than adults and anything they ingest will be absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly.”
Safe Kids Kansas reminds parents to learn the toll-free poison control center number: 1-800-222-1222. Keep it near every phone in your home and program it into your cell phone. This number connects you to your local poison control center from anywhere in the U.S. Unlike the Internet where you may find incorrect or outdated information, the poison control center staff knows what questions to ask to provide correct information, and sometimes life-saving instruction.
“If a child is choking, having trouble breathing or having a seizure, call 911 instead,” said Sage. “Follow the 911 operator’s instructions. Do not induce vomiting or give the child any fluid or medication unless directed.”
Safe Kids Kansas offers these additional tips:
- Lock up potential poisons out of sight and reach of kids. This includes makeup, medicine, plants, cleaning products, pesticides, art supplies, baking extracts, beverages containing alcohol, tobacco products and e-cigarettes (which contain liquid nicotine).
- Never leave kids alone with an open container of something you wouldn’t want them to ingest. A child can be poisoned in a matter of seconds.
- Don’t refer to medicine or vitamins as candy and don’t involve children as helpers with your medication.
- Choose medicines and products that have child-resistant caps. When you are giving medicine to your children, follow dosage directions carefully.
- Keep products in their original containers. Read labels to learn if a product is poisonous and for first aid information.
- If your home was built before 1978, test for lead-based paint and get your child tested for lead exposure. Children inhale the dust of lead-based paint and can build up enough lead in their blood to affect intelligence, growth and development.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that builds up around fuel-burning appliances and cars in garages. It can make a child seriously ill in concentrations that would barely affect an adult.
- Know which plants in and around your home can be poisonous.
- Discuss these precautions with grandparents and caregivers. They may have medications that can be very dangerous to children and their homes might not be as well childproofed as yours.