Keep kids safe: Poison prevention and response tips
According to the National Capital Poison Center, poisoning affects all age groups, from infants to seniors. But young children under age six are most likely to have a poison incident, especially one- and two-year-olds.
What's in your home?
Children are regularly exposed to poisonous substances at home. Here's a list of common home products that could cause serious injury or death to a child if accidentally ingested. Take a quick look around your own home. How many of these items could be within reach of kids?
- Tobacco, e-cigarettes, liquid nicotine
- Bug spray, pest traps, pesticides
- Button/lithium batteries in toys, greeting cards, key fobs
- Household cleaners
- Laundry detergent pods
- Personal care items (hand sanitizer, contact lens disinfectant)
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications, vitamins, supplements
- Oils and lubricants
- Paints, paint thinner
- Poisonous houseplants
Step 1: Prevention
Protecting the ones we love from poisons is a two-part process. The first is to prevent poisoning, whether accidental or intentional, from ever happening. The second is to have a plan in place for if and when it does.
“The most important step in prevention is to have any potential poisons out of the reach of kids,” said Dr. William Fisher, Community Physician Network pediatrician. Fisher offers the following poisoning prevention recommendations:
- Lock poisons in cabinets. Even elevated cabinets with poisons in them should be locked. Magnetic cabinet locks with a separate key can be the most effective.
- Keep poisons of the same type all in one locked area. All medicines should be locked in one area, and the same goes for poisons like household cleaners and outdoor chemicals typically found in a garage.
- Keep poisons in their original containers. This helps prevent children from mistakenly ingesting a poison in an unmarked bottle and gives first responders a clue as to how much poison may have been ingested.
Step 2: Have a plan
Kids act fast and so do poisons. So if poisoning does occur, the key is to have a plan in place to get help as quickly as possible, said Fisher.
"Calling Poison Control before calling the doctor is extremely important," he explained. "It may take 5-20 minutes for a doctor to get back with you, and Poison Control knows more about poisons than the best doctor in the world because they have the daily experience and resources right at their fingertips."
Dr. Fisher offers these recommendations if poisoning happens:
- Call the National Poison Control Hotline at 800-222-1222. Program the number into your cell phone and add a sticker with the number on every home phone.
- Don’t use syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting. Although this was recommended for years, it could actually do more harm than good by delaying treatment, not removing all of the poison from the stomach and causing additional damage to the esophagus.
- When seeking treatment, bring the original poison container. This helps medical professionals know what and how much was ingested.
For more on poison prevention and response, contact your local poison control center at 800-222-1222 or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. You can also keep handy this printable emergency information sheet for parents and caregivers.