Preventing household poisonings

Household cleanersAlmost all poisonings happen in the home, and more than half involve children younger than age six.

The following steps can help you prevent a poisoning in your home:

  • Never leave small children alone in a room with cleaning, cosmetic or medical products. A child can quickly and easily pull allergy pills from a purse or a drain cleaner from a grocery bag.
  • Keep alcohol and tobacco products out of reach. Both can cause long-term physical damage or death if swallowed by a child.
  • Keep medications, vitamins and herbal remedies stored in a safe place. Vitamin pills that contain iron and many medications are mildly to highly toxic. Some, like heart medication, blood thinners, chemotherapeutic agents and others, can be fatal to a child.
  • Be sure you give a child the correct dose of the correct medication. Overdosing can cause serious reactions.
  • Never refer to medications as “candy”.
  • Remove poisonous plants. Caladium, castor bean plant, elephant’s ear, philodendron, mistletoe, holly and dieffenbachia can cause skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and other side effects if eaten by children.
  • Check gas-powered appliances regularly for carbon monoxide leaks and make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Queta Almanza, injury prevention specialist at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, has one additional recommendation. “Adults should not take medications in front of their children,” says Queta. “Children love to imitate their parents, so they may try to take your medicine — just like you.”

Check for hazards

Check these locations in your home for dangerous products. Store the following poisonous products securely:

  • Garage: antifreeze, windshield cleaner, gasoline, charcoal lighter, pesticides, fertilizers, garden chemicals, fungicides and flea and pest powder
  • Bedrooms: cosmetics, cologne, hair spray, nail polish and remover, mothballs, medications and vitamins
  • Bathroom or laundry room: pine oil, drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents and aerosol sprays
  • Kitchen: insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, dishwashing detergent and oven cleaner
  • Home workshop: solder, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, solvents, paint and paint thinner

Cover your bases

Don’t rely on just one poison control measure. For safety’s sake:

  • Store harmful products out of sight and reach.
  • Keep products in their original containers. For example, never store bleach or toxic liquids in milk bottles.
  • Use products only for their intended purposes.

In an emergency

If your child swallows a poison:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or a poison control center: 800-222-1222.
  • Read the label of the swallowed product to the medical specialist.
  • Follow the instructions of the medical personnel exactly. Don’t make your child throw up. Vomiting can cause further damage if lye, dishwashing detergents, drain cleaners, paint thinners and certain other substances were swallowed.

For more information, contact the Injury Prevention Program at Driscoll Children’s Hospital at (361) 694-6700 or 866-886-5957.