Community Health Watch: Protect Your Child from Household Poisons

EMSWorld now offers Community Health Watch articles for use by your EMS agency. These short, pre-written, easy to use articles are intended to be educational for your local community members on a wide range of public safety and health issues, and may be branded for your use. Your organization is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. Either copy the text below or download the attached Word document.

There’s nothing scarier for a parent than having a sick child and not knowing the cause of their illness. In the case of a suspected poisoning, staying calm and acting quickly is the best medicine you can provide.

First, know the basics of prevention. Children who are less than 6 years old are the most likely to be poisoned. And among children, emergency room visits for medication poisonings are twice as common as poisonings from other household products (such as cleaning solutions and personal care products).

Keep the following poisonous products away from children:

  • Painkillers such as acetaminophen and similar medications
  • Cosmetics such as perfume or nail polish, and personal care items such as deodorant and soap
  • Cleaning products such as laundry detergent and floor cleaners

To avoid poisonings when taking care of children, be aware of the following tips:

  • All medicines and household cleaning products should be stored in locked cabinets or drawers, out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Keep young children where you can see them at all times.
  • Do not leave poisons on a counter or in an unlocked cabinet or drawer.
  • Never carry potential poisons, such as a medicine, in a purse where children may find it.

If your child has swallowed something poisonous get the item away from him. If there is still some in your child’s mouth, make him spit it out or remove it with your fingers. Keep this material along with anything else that might help determine what your child swallowed.

Do not make your child vomit because it may cause more damage. If your child is unconscious, not breathing, having convulsions or seizures, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number right away.

If your child does not have these symptoms, call the national Poison Help number, 800/222-1222. This connects you to your local poison control center. If the poison is very dangerous, or if your child is very young, you may be told to take him to the nearest hospital. If your child is not in danger, the Poison Help staff will tell you what to do to help your child at home.

If your child spills a dangerous chemical on her body, or in her eye(s), rinse the affected area with room-temperature water for at least 15 minutes, even if your child resists. Then call Poison Help at 800/222-1222. Do not use ointments or eye drops of any kind unless instructed to by Poison Help.

Similarly, if your child is exposed to fumes or gases, have him breathe fresh air right away. If he is breathing, call the Poison Help number, 800-222-1222, and ask about what to do next. If he has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and start CPR right away.

Don’t take chances with poisons. If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call Poison Help at 800/222-1222 immediately and ask for help.

Tips and statistics courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.