Kids get into all sorts of things, but what do you do if they get into something poisonous? Jaime Verberne, Child Safety Expert at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, answered our biggest questions about children and poison– including what might be potentially poisonous that you might not consider.
What is something that kids or parents should consider poison? Anything really common in homes?
According to the Florida Poison Control center, poison exposure is defined as coming into contact through the eyes, the nose, absorbed through the skin, injected or swallowed. There are some common culprits here. One of the newest ones is the liquid laundry or dishwasher packets– those little pods you would stick into the washing machine or dishwasher. Most of these cases happen in children that are one year to two years old and in 2012 there was 33,000 calls which is about one child every hour coming into contact with the pods.
As St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Greater Tampa, we have really been trying hard to educate families on how to keep these particular items out of reach or out of site for the kids.
Some of the other items that cause poisonings are makeup, which I don’t think a lot parents are aware of. I think a lot of times moms just sit their purses down or grandparents sit their purses down on the table or the floor and that is easy access to a child. We want to encourage families to keep their purses and makeup products out of reach of children. Other personal care products have caused poisonings, plants, pesticides, and lead are dangerous as well. I want to emphasize that anybody that lives in a home that was built prior to 1978 should have their home tested for lead. You should also think about toys or items that kids would be playing with. From time to time we see recalls of toys that are recalled because of lead. There is a website that you can go to, which is www.recalls.gov where you can see if any of the items that you might own come up on the list for being positive for lead.
Some other poisons can be art supplies, alcohol, carbon monoxide is a big one, so we want to stress that families install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home, closest to where people are sleeping especially.
Medications including vitamins can also be dangerous. What we are seeing a lot is that they are less of a culprit than they used to be– which is great because the awareness is getting out that families should keep medications out of reach and out of site from children. However a lot of children are still getting into medication. In fact, what Safe Kids Worldwide has said is that about four busloads of kids arrive to the ER each day, just kids getting into medications– to put that into perspective. That is huge.
What should a parent do if their child has ingested something poisonous?
The Florida Poison information center is a great resource that we have, and that number is 1-800-222-1222. It is a very easy number to memorize, however when you’re in an emergency state it might be hard for you to remember that number, so families can plug that into their phones, leave reminder stickers on the refrigerator for babysitters and other caregivers that might be in the house so that if there is an emergency where you suspect a poisoning, you have that number handy.
I think about 70% of the phone calls that come into the Poison Control Center are able to be handled so the families don’t even have to go to the ER, which is great.
If you see that a child is unconscious, having seizures– in that case you would want to call 911. You don’t want to induce vomiting or give anything else to that child unless the doctor has told you to do so.
Is there anything parents can do to prevent poisoning?
Its very important to talk to kids about the difference between a poisoning and something that is safe. Even kids with special needs, it is important to talk to those children as well. In some cases it might be important for families to make stickers or labels to put on medications or household cleaners that say NO or DON’T TOUCH– something that is very visual for all children.
There are many books you can get to read to children about poisoning dangers, you can use pictures, but you want to be talking to the kids about staying away from medications. Never refer to vitamins or medicine as candy. Never take medications out of their packaging or even cleaners out of their original packaging and put them into something else.
The scary thing is that lots of household cleaners and different poison comes in bottles that look like everyday bottles that we use that are safe. So the most important thing is that we keep these products out of sight and out of reach. Our toddlers are at eye level with cabinets in sinks and bathrooms, and a lot of people try to put their cleaners or their cosmetics and things in those lower cabinets, but they should go up high away from a child’s reach. If they do need to go in cabinets lower down, we urge families to use the cabinet and door locks so that kids cant get into those cabinets easily.
Should a parent treat the situation differently based on the child’s age?
You should call the 1-800-222-1222 at any age and the person on the line will ask all of the questions and are trained for how old your child is and what they might have gotten into. They will walk you through the whole process.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
At St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital we have a Safety Store on the third floor of our medical arts building and we sell low cost prevention products like the cabinet locks, drawer locks, and we have information and resources that families can use to help keep their families safe and to help prevent poisonings.
The Safety Store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.