It’s easy to think about childproofing when you have little ones under foot all the time. It’s easy to forget about it when you don’t.
That’s the main reason Arkansas Children’s Hospital sees so many accidental poisoning cases during the summer and over holidays. Grandparents, aunts or uncles and family friends may not be as careful as Mom and Dad when it comes to locking up the substances that appeal to the curiosity of young children.
Children under 6 years old account for approximately 70 percent of the poisoning exposures reported to the Arkansas Poison Center.
Kids are going to get into things — that’s just a fact of life. It’s up to us as caretakers to do our best to prevent it from happening.
If you have young visitors for a few days, take the time to get down on their level and identify the hazards that may be in their line of vision. Get down on all fours! This is the best way to figure out what they’ll be likely to head towards.
Move any substance that might cause your little ones danger up high and if possible, behind a locked cabinet door.
One of the most common scenarios we see with accidental poisonings is a child getting into a grandparent’s medications. Lots of pills look like candy and some liquid serums have nice fruity flavors that are appealing to toddlers. Be sure any prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs are locked up. Check your purse and counters – even the refrigerator – before your young visitors arrive so you can be sure there aren’t any dangers lurking in a forgotten place.
Another way children get into poisons is out in the garage or yard. Hazardous liquids abound in these areas! Do a quick walk-through and move things like gasoline, windshield wiper fluid, bleach and pest controls out of reach.
Also make sure you don’t have any of these substances stored in containers that aren’t the original packaging. It’s really easy to get confused if, say, you keep some leftover antifreeze in an old soda or formula bottle that was ready for the recycling bin. We have seen caretakers confuse household chemicals for punch or juice this way!
Another good way to be prepared is to go ahead and save the number for Poison Control in your phone. You don’t want to think about tracking down that number when it’s needed ASAP. The number is 1-800-222-1222.
If a child in your care has accidentally ingested a harmful substance, call Poison Control right away – before you try to induce vomiting. Some materials will cause more damage if they come back up the child’s esophagus, so you need to get directions from an expert immediately before you make any moves.
The last call anyone wants to make is the one telling parents their child has been injured because of someone else’s negligence. A little preparation can ensure that isn’t a call you ever have to make.
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Dr. Sam Smith is surgeon in chief at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He writes a column each week covering a variety of kids’ medical concerns. If you have a topic you’d like him to consider addressing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.