The data is staggering— over 2 million people every year consume a toxic substance and require medical attention. Just under half of those cases involve children under the age of six who came into contact with materials their parents believed were out of reach. Even more alarming is the fact that a lot of these accidents happen right under parents’ noses while they are at home with their children. Awareness and education are the most effective tools available to reduce your child’s risk of poisoning, so consider the following advice when determining how best to keep your home safe.
How to Prevent Accidental Poisoning in Your Home
If you have young children, it is important to be two steps ahead of them when child-proofing your home. You need to consider all of the places they may be able to reach and the power that curiosity can have on a young mind. The following precautions will help prevent an accidental poisoning in the home.
- Whenever you are using household cleaning products, you should have both the products and your children within your plain of sight. This will ensure that your child does not attempt to play with or ingest these products in the short time it takes for you to answer a phone call or the front door.
- Install child-proof locks on every cabinet in the home where you store chemicals or other hazardous materials.
- It should go without saying never to store chemicals in any container other than the one you purchased them in. It is far too easy for them to be mistaken for something else if you transfer them into alternate containers.
- Store household cleaners away from locations that have food. Your pantry and cleaner storage should be separate to keep family members from gaining access. This practice also prevents contamination should there be a leak in one of the containers.
- The moment you are done using household chemicals is when you should return them to their storage area.
- Avoid mixing chemicals as this can create reactions that produce toxic fumes or dangerous chemical reactions.
- Your child may possess the ability to climb, so storing chemicals up high may not be enough. The best storage areas are in the garage or a shed in the backyard. Wherever you choose to store your chemicals, make sure you can place a lock on the cabinet or room to keep children out.
- Store all medications in child-proof containers that are out of reach. While this is normally less of a problem for younger couples, many children gain access to medications when they visit older relatives. Anyone suffering from arthritis is more likely to have medications stored in easily accessible areas and in containers that children can open with ease.
How to Treat a Poisoned Child
Even the most vigilant of parents may fail to prevent a poisoning, so it is important to know what to do if your child does access substances that are harmful to his or her health. The first step is to recognize the symptoms, which include sudden difficulty breathing or speaking, dizziness, loss of consciousness, foaming of the mouth, vomiting, cramps and nausea.
What you do upon discovery that your child has been poisoned can help or worsen the situation, so it is important not to induce vomiting or give your child water without being told to do so by a professional. In the event of contact with the skin or eyes, you should flush the skin or eyes with water for 15-20 minutes. If the exposure is due to fumes, you and your child need to move outside to avoid continued exposure.
You should store the National Poison Control Hotline in your phone so that you can access it easily and be ready to provide important information such as the substance your child consumed, when you believe your child came in contact with it, his or her age and weight and your personal information. The hotline is 1-800-222-1222.
In summary, preventing child poisoning through proactive measures is the most effective means to protect your child, but acting quickly in the event he or she is poisoned is critical to ensuring the greatest chance of survival. For more information on poisoning in the home, you can refer to the following resources.