The average home is filled with items that can prove to be harmful to your health. From medications and cleaning products, to batteries, paints and many other household products, there is always a risk of accidental poisoning, especially for children.
Statistics show that the vast majority of poisonings happen in the home, with most of these affecting children. Kids, especially those under the age of 5, are always getting into things, and don’t have the wherewithal to understand what they should or shouldn’t put into their mouths. Poisoning is a leading cause of injury and death worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits, and even more poison control hotline calls, being recorded annually.
Typically, poisoning accidents occur when medications or toxic substances are used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. These items will also have different reactions depending on the situation and will require different medical treatments, so it’s important to know what an individual was exposed to and in what amounts.
To be best prepared for an emergency, always have the phone number of your local Poison Control Centre available to be able to get a quick assessment of the situation. The number for your area can easily be found online and it’s a good idea to program it into your phone. Also familiarize yourself with local resources such as hospitals, walk-in clinics and other emergency response services. In cases where a victim, especially a child, is in clear distress or has become unconscious, do not hesitate to call 911 immediately.
Perhaps the most important aspect of your safety program is how and where you store potentially dangerous items. Since most of these accidents happen to children, having items safe and secure is absolutely your first line of defense.
- Take an inventory of items in your home that could be harmful if consumed by a child. This would include the obvious things like prescription medications and strong cleaning products, but also seemingly safe items such as vitamins or other over-the-counter remedies. This is especially true of anything that is colourful or that looks like candy.
- It’s best to keep items completely out of sight to help avoid any temptation. Also be sure that children can’t reach items by using a chair or climbing onto a counter.
- Keep medications and household supplies in their original containers so that they can’t be mistaken for something else
- Store items, including things like laundry or dish pods, up and out of the reach of children. Up until kids reach a more responsible age, it’s also best to childproof your home with locks on any cabinet that may contain dangerous items.
- Securely close lids and put medications and household products away as soon as you are finished with them (or if you get distracted with another task). It only takes a moment for an accident to happen. Also be sure that child-resistant lids are used.
- Safely dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements. If you don’t need it, don’t keep it.
- Always carefully read the labels on medications before you use them. Be sure of the dosage, any age or body weight restrictions or potentially dangerous drug interactions. Ask a pharmacist if you are unsure.
- Reading labels also applies to strong household cleaners, solvents, paints and other similar items. Follow all instructions carefully, and never mix these types of products together as this can result in toxic gases being released.
- Always wear protective clothing and eye protection when handling pesticides or other chemicals
- Be sure to turn on a fan and open windows when using chemical products indoors
- With children, teach them to always ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Good communication skills can go a long way in promoting safety.
- Aside from the obvious medications and household cleaners, also be aware of the presence of rodent poisons, dangerous plants and any pesticides or herbicides that you may use on your garden
- Be sure that babysitters and houseguests also understand the rules in your home when it comes to potentially poisonous items
- Where possible, avoid taking medicine in front of children so that they don’t get the idea that it’s ‘OK’ to consume these types of things. It’s hard for kids at a certain age to make these types of distinctions.
- Avoid borrowing or sharing medications, or taking anything that is beyond its expiry date
- Use only the measuring cup, syringe or dropper that is included with your medication. Don’t guess or estimate when it comes to the dose.
- Typically, medicines can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication just to be certain.
- Keep magnets or toys with accessible batteries away from small children. Call a poison control center right away if you suspect that a child has swallowed a magnet or battery.
Applying some common sense and diligence when it comes to household safety, can help to prevent an unfortunate poisoning incident in your home.