Prevent Poisoning in Your Home
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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 2 million people report ingestions of potentially toxic substances to poison control centers in the United States every year. Many of these exposures involve children under the age of 19.
Many items in homes can be toxic to young children, such as medications, cleaning products, alcohol, plants, and even cosmetics.
Magnets, button batteries, and laundry packets can also be dangerous if ingested by younger children since they are easy to access. If your child eats one of these, they need medical attention quickly.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have impacted the types of poisonings reported in children and adolescents. Right now, we’re seeing a rise in calls about acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol®, and calls about mistakes with cough and cold products. These items should always be stored safely (see the tips below).
Florida’s Poison Control Centers have also received more calls about dietary supplements. Have you or your family members started taking melatonin, vitamin D, or vitamin C to boost your immune system to avoid COVID-19? Be careful because these supplements can be harmful when not taken at the recommended dose.
Even too many gummy vitamins may lead to stomachache or vomiting. Please check with your child’s doctor before giving supplements, and make sure to read the packaging and only take them as directed.
Another critical issue related to poisoning in South Florida is the legalization of medical cannabis. With more availability (and appealing edible forms like gummies, baked goods, and chocolate), many more exposures have led to poisoning over the past few years. Some of these poisonings have been life-threatening to children. If someone in your family uses medical cannabis, make sure to keep the products out of reach from children.
Most ingestions of poisonous substances occur in the home.
To avoid accidental poisonings, make sure to follow these steps below:
- Keep all hazardous substances up and away or in a locked cabinet, out of reach of children. You can use locks on high cabinets to help make extra sure kids can’t get to the dangerous items in your home.
- If you use prescription-strength medications for pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, or mental health conditions, consider securing these in a medicine safe, lockbox, or bag.
- Ensure items such as medications and household cleaners are always in their original, labeled containers. Pills should be in child-resistant containers.
- Remember that visitors to your home might keep medications or other dangerous items in their purses or bags, so make sure those are also out of your kids’ reach.
What should you do if your child does get exposed to poison in your home?
- Poison control centers offer help for emergencies involving poisons/medication mistakes, even for adults.
- A quick call to poison control (1-800-222-1222) can save a family’s trip to the emergency department.
- Calls are fully confidential — no one gets in trouble for calling poison control!
For more information about keeping your child safe from poisonings in the home, contact the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami, a program supported by The Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080 or www.injuryfreemiami.org.
By Kristen Mascarenhas, M.D./M.P.H. candidate at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with Wendy Stephan, Ph.D., Julie Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., Lyse Deus and Oneith Cadiz, M.D.