From fertilizer to antifreeze and medicines to makeup, poisonous items show up throughout our homes. Here are some important ways to help prevent kids from ingesting a poisonous substance.
- Don't rely on packaging to protect your kids — child-resistant packaging does not mean childproof packaging.
- Never prepare or give medication to a child in the dark: You may give the wrong dosage or even the wrong medication.
- Never leave vitamin bottles, aspirin bottles, or other medications on kitchen tables, countertops, bedside tables, or dresser tops. Small children may decide to try to copy adults and help themselves.
- Never tell a child that medicine tastes like candy.
- Store all medications — prescription and nonprescription — in a locked cabinet, far from kids' reach. Even items that seem harmless, such as mouthwash, can be extremely dangerous if ingested in large quantities by children. Just because cabinets are up high doesn't mean kids can't get their hands on what's in them — they'll climb up (using the toilet and countertops) to get to items in the medicine cabinet.
- Make sure purses and bags — yours and guests' — that could contain poisonous items such as medications are kept out of the reach of kids at all times.
- Always keep pills and liquids in their original containers.
- Try to keep a record of how many pills are left in a prescription container.
- Be aware of all medications in your home (and in those of relatives if your kids spend a lot of time there).
Cleaning Products and Other Household Chemicals
- Never put cleaning products in old soda bottles or containers that were once used for food.
- Never put roach powders or rat poison on the floors of your home.
- Store household cleaning products and aerosol sprays in a high cabinet far from reach.
- Don't keep any cleaning supplies, including dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquids, under the sink.
- Use safety latches for all cabinets containing hazardous substances.
- Keep hazardous automotive and gardening products in a securely locked area (ideally, in your garage, if you have one).
- When you're cleaning or using household chemicals, never leave the bottles unattended if there's a small child present.
- Don't leave alcoholic drinks where kids can reach them. Take special care during parties — guests may not be mindful of where they've left their drinks. Clean up promptly after the party.
- Keep bottles of alcohol in a locked cabinet far from kids' reach.
- Keep mouthwash out of the reach of kids, as many brands contain substantial amounts of alcohol.
- Food extracts, such as vanilla and almond, may contain alcohol and can be harmful to kids.
- Don't use cribs, bassinets, highchairs, painted toys, or toy chests made before 1978; these may have a finish that contains lead.
- If you have an older home, have the paint tested for lead. For more information on lead, call the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-LEAD (5323).
- Keep up on toy recalls due to the use of lead paint — you can receive notifications from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
- Never leave cosmetics and toiletries within easy reach of children. Be especially cautious with perfume, hair dye, hairspray, nail and shoe polish, and nail polish remover.
- Keep kids away from houseplants — and plants around your yard — that can be poisonous. Either put plants out of reach or buy only plants that are nonpoisonous. A few examples of toxic houseplants include: rhododendron, English ivy, lily of the valley, and holiday plants such as holly and mistletoe.
- Discard used button cell batteries (like those in watches) safely, and store any unused ones far from kids' reach (alkaline substances are poisonous).
If you're expecting a baby or you already have a child, it's wise to:
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the abdominal thrust procedure (the Heimlich maneuver).
- Keep the following numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
- poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
- doctor's number
- parents' work and cell phone numbers
- neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other kids in an emergency)
- Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Maintaining a Safe, Kid-Friendly Environment
To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home to see things from a child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what might be potentially dangerous.
Completely childproofing your home can be difficult. If you can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and install doorknob covers) to any room a child shouldn't enter to prevent wandering into places that haven't been properly childproofed. For sliding doors, doorknob covers and childproof locks are also great for keeping little ones from leaving your home.
Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is up to you. Supervision is the very best way to help prevent kids from getting injured. However, even the most vigilant parent can't keep a child 100% safe at all times.
Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home should be a haven where your little one can explore safely. After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the activities that develop your child's body and mind.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010
|National SAFE KIDS Campaign The National SAFE KIDS Campaign offers information about car seats, crib safety, fact sheets, and links to other health- and safety-oriented sites.|
|National Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.|
|U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) This federal agency collects information about consumer goods and issues recalls on unsafe or dangerous products.|
|American Red Cross The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and works to keep people safe every day. The website has information on first aid, safety, and more.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Poison Control Centers Use this toll-free number to reach any of the United States' 65 local poison control centers - (800) 222-1222 - or visit the website to find the poison control center nearest you.|
|TOYSAFETY.net This site, which is a project of the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) provides toy safety information for consumers.|
|Emergency Contact Sheet The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Fill out this sheet, and post it near each phone.|
|Poisoning Instruction Sheet Most childhood poisonings can be treated at home with advice from the poison control center. However, it's important to know when a poisoning is serious enough to require medical treatment.|
|Household Safety Checklists Young kids love to explore their homes, but are unaware of the potential dangers. Learn how to protect them with our handy household safety checklists.|
|Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under.|
|Choosing Safe Toys Toys are a fun and important part of any child's development. And there's plenty you can do to make sure all toys are safe.|
|Lead Poisoning Long-term exposure to lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in young kids, so it's important to find out whether your child might be at risk for lead exposure.|
|First-Aid Kit A well-stocked first-aid kit, kept in easy reach, is a necessity in every home. Learn where you should keep a kit and what to put in it.|
|Choosing Safe Baby Products Choosing baby products can be confusing, but one consideration must never be compromised: your little one's safety.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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