SPRINGFIELD – Poisonings, which are preventable, are now the leading cause of death from injuries in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From putting the laundry bleach on the top shelf to locking up leftover paint cans in the shed, poison prevention steps like these can mean all the difference between keeping a curious child safe and a trip to the emergency room.
National Poison Prevention Week, March 15-21, is a nationally designated observance to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.
“Children ages six and under are particularly vulnerable to poisonings due to their innate desire to put everything in their mouths,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator, Western Massachusetts Safe Kids Coalition headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
“Children can be curious, but curiosity can turn dangerous if kids are getting under the kitchen sink or into the medicine cabinet where hazardous chemicals and adult medicines are kept,” said Summers.
The National Poison Prevention Week Council offers the following tips to keep your home safe and prevent poisonings:
1. Inspect your entire home for any medicines or household products, such as detergents, cleaning products, pesticides, and fertilizers that may not be stored properly and correct the situation immediately. Always store medicines and household products up high, away and out of sight from children.
2. Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and household products.
3. Ensure children can’t use chairs or stack items to climb to products stored out of their reach.
4. Buy products in child-resistant packaging whenever possible. But, remember, child-resistant is not childproof, and is designed to keep children away from the product for a short time before a parent notices.
5. Once purchased, use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after each use.
6. Re-close medicines and other household products if interrupted during use. Many incidents happen when adults are distracted when using these products.
7. Read medicine and product labels before each use and follow directions exactly.
8. Teach children to always ask an adult before eating, drinking or touching anything.
9. If you think someone has been poisoned, call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222, to reach your local poison center at any time on any day.
10. If you leave your children in a babysitter’s care, ensure he or she knows about the Poison Help number.
“I can’t stress enough the need for passive mechanisms to keep children safe. Cabinet locks and child-resistant closures need to be in place at all times in the child’s home, as well as at other locations they may frequent such as a grandparent’s house,” said Dr. Holly Perry of the Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center.
According to Dr. Perry, the most common poisonings seen in the pediatric emergency department among children younger than six include ingesting family member’s medications, cleaning products or hydrocarbons such as lamp oil and infusion products used in aroma therapy.
“Aroma therapy oils tend to smell good and children will often take a swig of them,” said Dr. Perry, who also noted all medications should be stored out of reach, including pill bottles and multi-dose pill boxes
Dr. Perry cautioned parents never to make their child throw up the poison.
“If your child is in distress such as gasping for breath or drooling, you should immediately call 911 and get them to the emergency department. If not, then you should call the Poison Control Center. You will be connected to an expert in poisonings, typically in less than five minutes. For many poisonings, children can be watched at home and the Poison Control Center has a great deal of experience in guiding parents in these matters. They will even follow up with a call back to check on how your child is doing if it is decided the child can be watched at home,” said Dr. Perry.
For more information on poison prevention, visit www.safekids.org or www.poisonprevention.org.
For more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit www.baystatehealth.org/bch.