Protecting Children From Cleaners and Other Poisons

Baby boy opens up kitchen cupboard and pulls out various cleaning products from under the sink while his parents are distracted.

Household poisonings remain a medical emergency of epidemic proportions, despite well publicized prevention strategies.

According to CDC statistics, one out of every four individuals is affected by an accidental poisoning, and over 90% of those occur in the home. Children are an especially vulnerable group for two big reasons. First of all, they do not understand the inherent dangers of these products, and secondly, from newborn past toddler age, children discover everything with their mouth. More than 300 children nationwide are treated every day in emergency departments across the country due to poisonings.

To reduce this number, we need to understand a few simple facts about possible culprits and how to store them safely.

Understand what attracts children to these products.

Children are drawn to colorful items, and a quick assessment of your home will uncover some high risk products. Pills, laundry pods, cleaners, and a host of other items sell better if they contain bright, vibrant colors. While that works from a marketing prospective, it adds a danger element to seemingly harmless products. Wander through your home and take inventory, and then action, against items that may be attractive to your kids.

Look out for look alike products.

Another problem with some household items is that children can confuse them with common foods and drinks. Window cleaner, like Windex, looks like blue Gatorade. Bleach looks like a simple glass of water. Laundry pods remind kids of colored marshmallows. Cleaning products that are yellow in color remind kids of Mountain Dew. Examine all household products not only with an eye to danger, but for patterns of similarity with products kids are very familiar with.

Even “innocent” products may be harmful.

A vast majority of accidental poisonings occur with products that, in our mind, are harmless. Mouthwash is not something that equates to us on the same level as rat poison, but the base of most mouthwashes is alcohol, a deadly poison to children. Cosmetics contain a host of chemicals that are harmful in small amounts, and the various colors, as stated above, are attractive to kids. The newest product to create a wave of poisoning are the pre-packaged laundry pods. They are tiny enough for little hands, their color is a draw for wee ones, and it reminds them of some of their toys. And we all know what they do with their toys! Nothing is innocent in the house in terms of potential poisonings.

Sometimes ‘high’ is not high enough.

In terms of storage of household products, placing them up high is often just the tip of the iceberg. In every family, there is a climber, the master of scaling great heights to see what treasures can be found. So in many cases, ‘high’ does not prevent disaster. Storing products high in locked cabinets is a minimum to keep little hands away from them.

Until children are aware enough to keep themselves safe, it is our job to do so for them. Using these tips is a step in reducing the number of accidental poisonings.

Diane SimonDiane Simon, RN, CEN, is the Trauma Coordinator/Registrar for ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital.

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