I was a first-time mom of a hilarious and stubborn two-year-old girl (now almost 16). Her father and I were in the middle of a move, just having purchased our first home. Life was great. Trying to move furniture with a toddler in the way was sort of a nightmare, but we managed. It wasn’t until 15 minutes later that I realized the medication I was on at the time, and that I had placed on the TV stand was missing. “Have you seen my pill?” “It was right here!” Panic set in as I looked down and found a half-melted capsule on the floor next to my toddler. Long story short, I called Poison Control and spent the rest of the night at Primary Children’s Hospital. It was a night I won’t ever forget. Just thinking about it now can bring me to tears, 13 years later. I was beyond scared and felt incredibly guilty as a mother who should have known better. Since then, I have learned that these aren’t just statistics or numbers on a fact sheet. These are our kids, grandkids, friend’s kids, and the kids in our community to which this can happen.
Do you know that United States Poison Control Centers receive, on average, an exposure case every 15 seconds? Did you also know that 44% of those cases are children five years and younger? Every day, over 300 children in the United States between 0-19 years old are treated in an emergency department, and two children die as a result of poisoning. Toddlers are curious and tend to put just about anything in their mouths. It’s not only chemicals in your home that are labeled with warnings that can be dangerous to children. Everyday items in your home or purse, such as household cleaners and medicines, can be hazardous to children as well. Medication dosing mistakes and unsupervised ingestions are common ways that children are poisoned. Thankfully, there are ways you can help poison-proof your home and protect the children you love.
Here is a list of the most common household dangers to toddlers and young kids, as well as ways to help protect them from accidental poisonings.
- Medications/Vitamins- Medications are the leading cause of poisonings in children. It’s essential to keep all medicines and vitamins out of the reach of children. Be particularly careful when visiting friends or relatives, especially the elderly. They often take multiple medications and keep them in reach since they don’t have young kids of their own. Children often find medicine kept in purses or on counters and nightstands. Place bags and briefcases on high shelves or hang them on hooks, out of children’s reach and sight. When dosing medications for your child, it is essential to read and even re-read the directions before you administer the medication. It’s better to be extra safe than sorry.
- Household Cleaning Products- Many cleaning and laundry products are poisonous. Children are attracted to them because of their bright colors and can confuse them with things like juice, candy, or toys. Single-use laundry packets, in particular, are very concentrated and toxic. Even a small amount of detergent can cause severe injury and death. Poison centers receive many calls each year about children getting into laundry detergent. Swallowing laundry detergent usually causes mild stomach upset or even no symptoms. However, children exposed to them can experience excessive vomiting, wheezing, and gasping. Some get very sleepy or even have trouble breathing. They can also cause irritation of the skin or eyes if touched. Keep these products in their original containers and store them out of children’s reach.
- Button Batteries- Small, shiny, and attractive to kids. Button batteries are found in most homes in some remotes, key fobs, and toys, but they can cause severe damage and even death if swallowed. Store extra batteries out of children’s reach. According to Utah Poison Control, a button battery can cause severe damage in as little as two hours after ingestion. Keep all devices that use button batteries out of reach of children, and make sure the battery compartments are tightly closed or even taped shut.
- Liquid Nicotine- Even a tiny amount of the liquid nicotine used to refill e-cigarettes can kill a child. Liquid nicotine is sold in many different flavors, many of which are appealing to young children. Keep these products out of a child’s reach.
- Carbon-monoxide Poisoning- Carbon monoxide is a gas that you cannot see, taste, or smell and because of this, it is often called the “invisible killer.” It is created when fuel-burning appliances, such as heating devices, grills, clothes dryers, and vehicles, do not burn all the fuel they need to function. Test CO alarms every month. Replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Utah Poison Control 24-Hour Service Call 1-800-222-1222
The Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) is a 24-hour resource for poison information and educational resources. If you suspect poisoning, call the number listed above. If you have children, it is a good idea to put this number in your phone for easy and quick access. In the month of March, our Pediatric offices will have fridge magnets free to the public. Stop by and pick one up.
Things you will need to know when calling:
- The exact name of the product
- Amount ingested
- When the ingestion happened
- The age and weight of the person exposed
- How the person is doing
- Phone number where you can be reached
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/poisoning/index.html
- Utah Poison Control: http://poisoncontrol.utah.edu/index.php#householddangers
- American Association of Poison Control Centers, 2018 Data Snapshot https://piper.filecamp.com/uniq/op8yK0HrOC738v8L.pdf
By Hailey Heap
Canyon View Pediatrics Administrator