A poison is defined as any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. This includes everything from cleaners to aspirin.
Poisoning deaths, now considered the leading cause of death from injury in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics, exceeded the number of motor vehicle traffic deaths for the first time since 1980. (CDC)
The greatest poisoning danger to our children is the danger of poisoning from articles in the home. However, while cleaning supplies and pesticides pose a definite threat, medicines kept in the home, and sometimes even medicines prescribed for the children and teens themselves are as a big a danger as cleaning supplies and pesticides. Our children see us taking prescription medication, and think that if it is okay for us to take the prescriptions, it’s okay for them as well, and that causes serious trouble for the child or teenager. As parents, we need to make ourselves aware of the substances that can harm children and teens. The problem is that almost any substance, even aspirin when used improperly, can result in an overdose and poisoning.
Parents need to be aware of the different ways our children can be poisoned in order to protect them. They also need to know what to look for in older children and teens for signs of using medicines improperly. Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have risen dramatically during the past two decades. Approximately 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs each year. This is higher than the number of people who die from heroin and cocaine combined. (CDC)
Recent studies that focus on the short term, severe problems associated with medicines taken by people outside of hospital settings state that more than 700,000 visits are made to emergency rooms each year for adverse drug reactions in the United States alone. Nearly 120,000 of these patients need to be hospitalized for further treatment. Most of these overdoses are preventable. (CDC)
Most poisonings take place when parents or caregivers are home but not paying close attention. Some are caused simply by a lack of realization that certain items can poison children, so we should all take the time to sit down with a comprehensive list of items that are poisonous.
The most dangerous potential poisons are listed here, but this list is by no means comprehensive. Below that are tips to help you prevent poisoning: Cleaning products; antifreeze; windshield wiper fluid; pesticides; furniture polish; gasoline; kerosene; lamp oil; and medicines.
It’s easy to get distracted, especially if there is more than one child in the house, but it is critical to your children’s safety that you are alert at all times if there are any of these products that your children can reach. However, there are some additional precautions we can all take to ensure our children are able to grow up in a healthy, safe environment.
• Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and household products.
• Ensure children can’t use chairs or stack items to climb to products stored out of their reach.
• Close medicines and other household products if you are interrupted while you are using them. Many accidents happen when adults are distracted when using these products (e.g., by the telephone or the doorbell).
• Buy products in child-resistant packaging whenever possible, and use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after each use. Remember, the packaging is not child proof, only child resistant.
• If you think someone has been poisoned, call Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222, to reach your local poison center. This national toll-free number works anywhere in the U.S. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Keep this number near your home phone and in all cell phones.
• When you leave your children in a babysitter’s care, ensure he/she knows about the Poison Help number – 1-800-222-1222.
• Teach children to always ask an adult before eating, drinking or touching anything.
Medicine Safety Tips:
• Ask babysitters, visitors, and house guests to keep purses, briefcases or bags that contain medicines up high, away and out of sight from your children. The same rule applies when your children are visiting a friend or relative’s home.
• Read medicine and product labels before each use and follow directions exactly.
• Tell children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them.
• Never call medicine “candy” to get a child to take it.
• Never leave medicine out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside.
• Always turn the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every time.
• Put on your glasses to read the label when you need to take a medicine so that you know you have the correct amount of the right medicine.
• Avoid taking medicine in front of children.
• Never take more than the prescribed amount of medicine.
• Never “borrow” a friend’s medicine or take old medicines.
• Tell your doctor what medicines you are taking so you can avoid harmful or dangerous drug interactions. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medicine, vitamins and herbal products.
• Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically, and safely dispose of medicines that are expired or no longer needed.
• Always re-lock the safety cap on a medicine bottle. If the medicine has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click or you cannot twist any more.
• Don’t remove medicine from a child-resistant package and put it in another type of easy to open container.
• Read the labels of prescription and over-the-counter medicine carefully to make sure you are not taking more than one product at a time with the same active ingredient.
• Use only the measuring device (dosing cup, dosing syringe, or dropper) that is included with your medicine. If a measuring device is not included or you do not receive one, ask for one from your pharmacist. Don’t substitute another item, such as a kitchen spoon.
• If you don’t understand the instructions on the medicine label, or how to use the dosing device (dosing cup, dosing syringe, or dropper), talk to your pharmacist or doctor before using the medicine.
• Never share or sell your prescription medicines. Make sure your teenagers do not have access to these medicines as well.
• Monitor the use of medicines prescribed for children and teenagers, such as medicines for attention deficit disorder, or ADD.
• Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers whenever possible. If you transfer medicines to another container, such as a pill minder or organizer, store them in a place that is too high for a child to reach or see, since these containers are often not child-resistant. If possible, ensure the storage location has a safety latch.
• Some medicines are dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol if you are taking a prescription or over-the-counter medicine.
Household Product Safety:
• Keep cleaning products in their original container with their original label intact.
• Laundry product labels contain first aid information and are a valuable resource for consumers.
• Always close all household cleaning product containers immediately after use and store them out of chil
• NEVER use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household and chemical products.
• Teach children that laundry and other cleaning products and their containers are not toys.
• Children are usually curious and explore all new things that they find in the home. Take care to keep laundry products out of reach of young children.
• Always remember to rinse and re-cap laundry containers before throwing away or recycling.
• Never use empty detergent containers for storage of any other materials.
• Remove children, pets, and toys before applying pesticides (inside or outside the home). Follow label directions to determine when children and pets can return to the area that has been treated.
• To protect children from exposure to mouse/rat/insect poison, use products with a tamper-resistant bait station.
• Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces to reduce possible exposure to lead and pesticide residues.
• Have your child tested for lead. Symptoms of lead poisoning may not be obvious right away, but behavior and learning problems can develop if high levels are left untreated.
• Wash children’s hands, toys, pacifiers and bottles often.
• Store food in a separate area than household cleaning products and chemicals. Mistaking one for the other could cause a serious poisoning.
• Never combine household cleaning products because some chemical mixtures may release irritating gases.
• Turn on fans and open windows when using household cleaners and chemicals.
• Make it a practice to check the spray nozzle on products before use to ensure that it is directed away from your face and other people.
• Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, shoes and gloves, when spraying pesticides and other chemicals. Stay away from areas that have recently been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals.
• Don’t sniff chemical containers, whether you know what is inside or not.
• Keep magnetic toys and other magnetic items away from small children. Call the poison center right away if you suspect a child has swallowed a magnet.
• Know the name of all household plants in your home. Remove any poisonous plants from the house and yard. (Poison Prevention.org)
Contact Denton County Sheriff Will Travis at 940-349-1700.