Be mindful of harmful substances

Your home is a place of safety and stability for your child. It’s also a warehouse of potentially lethal substances that could cause permanent damage or even death. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 2.4 million people swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance each year. Children younger than 6 account for more than half that number.

Childproofing your home is essential to making it a safe place for your family. While childproofing your own home is crucial, it’s also important to remain vigilant while away from home.

“Always be aware of where your children are and what they’re doing,” said Lynn Flynn, R.N., care coordinator with Providence Health Plans’ Care Management department. “In the poisonings we have seen recently, children have ingested substances at a location other than their own home.”

Flynn said children can be intrigued by pills, many of which could be mistaken for candy, due to their shapes and bright colors. She has worked with families whose children have ingested medications or household cleaning agents at a friend’s or family member’s home.

“We don’t always know what medications and other substances are going to do to a little body,” she said, adding that while childproofing is a parent’s priority, it may not be on the minds of friends or family members who don’t have children living in their home. “The take-home message for parents is to watch them closely both at home and away.”

To child-proof your own home, keep medications and cleaning products out of reach of young hands. Install safety latches on doors to cabinets that contain potentially harmful substances. Make sure your home is outfitted with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. And keep all medications in their proper containers with child-proof safety caps. There is no need to sugar-coat these dangers for your children: let them know there are substances in the house that can harm them and emphasize the importance of not touching them. For example, make it clear that medicine is for grown-ups, and don’t refer to it as something it’s not – such as candy. If taking medication in front of your children makes you self-conscious, take it when they’re not around.

When administering medication intended for children – such as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers – always check the dosage on the package, and if you’re not sure, call your health care provider for additional guidance.

Here are some simple steps to follow if you ever have a poison emergency. Please note, if your child is unconscious, not breathing or experiencing seizures, dial 911 immediately. Keep Poison Control on speed dial on your landline, and plug it into your mobile phone. Do it now so you don’t forget. The number is 800-222-1222.

  • If your child swallows a potentially toxic substance, have your child spit it out, or remove it with your fingers.
  • Do not discard the substance; having it may help medical professionals treat your child. Do make sure to store the remaining material away from your child’s reach.
  • Do not induce vomiting with syrup of ipecac. Vomiting may cause more damage.
  • If your child has a potentially dangerous substance on his or her skin, remove your child’s clothing and rinse the affected skin with room-temperature water for at least 15 minutes, even if your child complains or resists.
  • Do not apply lotions, creams or ointments until you have called Poison Control.
  • If your child has a potentially dangerous substance in his or her eye(s), flush the eye(s) with a steady stream of room-temperature water for 15 minutes; you will need to hold open your child’s eyelid(s) and aim the water into the corner of the eye(s).
  • Do not apply drops or other soothing remedies to the eye(s) until you have called Poison Control.
  • If your child is exposed to poisonous fumes, get him or her into fresh air immediately.

No matter the substance exposure – solid, liquid or gas – you need to call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 for further guidance.