National Poison Prevention Week is March 18-24
We use products every day in our homes and in our yards that are labeled "danger," "keep out of the reach of children," and "poisonous if swallowed." How many of us actually pay attention to those warning labels? Because children act fast, parents and caregivers must always be extra careful when using household chemicals or medicines to avoid accidental poisonings.
According to Safe Kids USA, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of unintentional injuries in children, approximately 100 children ages 14 years and younger die each year as a result of unintentional poisoning. At the same time, nearly 88,000 nonfatal poisonings to children are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year. Approximately nine out of 10 poison exposures in children occur in the home with 56 percent of those poisonings being in children under the age of five.
"Younger children are naturally curious about their surroundings and learn by exploring," explains Patsy Zoumberis, RN, Nurse Educator for Houston Healthcare and Coordinator for Houston County's Safe Kids Coalition. "Unfortunately, what little eyes see and little hands can reach usually ends up in little mouths. That's why it's so very important for parents and caregivers to practice safety first when it comes to properly storing chemicals and medicines out of the reach of children."
Safe Kids offers the following tips on using poisons safely:
Read the label. Some products can be poisonous if used the wrong way. Follow the directions when using any cleaning or chemical product. If the label advises wearing gloves or eye goggles, do so to protect skin and eyes. Don't mix cleaners together. If products have a strong smell, open a window for ventilation or use the products outside.
Store poisons safely. Cosmetics, such as perfume or nail polish, and personal care products, such as deodorant and soap, can be poisonous to children, as well as common household cleaning products, such as laundry detergent and floor cleaners. Keep poisons and medications locked away from young children, in high cabinets if possible. Always keep poisons and medications in their original bottles or packaging with the labels on them. Don't store poisonous products with food and keep the lids tightly closed.
Be careful with medicine. Taking too much of a medicine or taking the wrong medicine can hurt or even kill you. Medicine prescribed for an adult can be deadly for a child. Always use child-resistant caps around children. Some over-the-counter medications, such as cold medicines, pain relievers and allergy medications, can be poisonous if you take too much.
"Always read and follow the dosing directions on medicines. If you don't understand the directions, please ask your doctor or the pharmacist to help you," cautions Zoumberis. "Never refer to medicine or vitamins as 'candy' in front of a child, and do not have children help you take your medication. Also, be aware of any medicines you may have in your purse when you are around children."
In Case of Poisoning
If you think your child or another individual has swallowed, breathed or touched something poisonous, call the Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. If the person will not wake up, is having trouble breathing or is not breathing, or is having a seizure, call 9-1-1 immediately. Have the produce or its label on-hand and be prepared to tell the Poison Control Center or emergency personnel the following information:
The victim's age and weight
Any existing health conditions or problems the victim may have
The poison involved and how the person came in contact with it. Did the person swallow it, inhale it, absorb it through their skin, or splash it in their eyes? How much time has passed since they came in contact with it?
Any first aid that may have been given
If the person has vomited
Your location and how long it will take you to get to the nearest emergency room.
If the person has swallowed medicine, do not give them anything by mouth until you contact the Poison Control Center. If the person has swallowed chemicals or other household products, call the Poison Control Center or follow the first aid instructions on the product's label.
"The Poison Control Center is staffed by medical professionals who can help if you have any questions about poisons. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can assist people in almost any language," adds Zoumberis. "It's important for everyone to know the phone number to the Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222. Keep the phone number near the telephone or on the refrigerator and save it to your cell phone."