Reducing the risk of accidental poisoning, by Dr. Steadman McPeters

UAB School of Nursing Assistant Professor Steadman McPeters, DNP, CPNP-AC, CRNP, RNFA is an Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and coordinator of the Pediatric Primary/Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Specialty Track. McPeters previously served on the Alabama Chapter Board of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and is treasurer for the Alabama League for Nursing. For National Poison Prevention Week, McPeters provided tips to lowering the risk of accidental poisoning in children and adolescents.

Steadman McPeters, DNP, CPNP-AC, CRNP

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 3 million children under the age of 5 swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency room, and two die, as a result of being poisoned.

Poisonings usually are not a result of clearly marked chemicals. The most dangerous substances around a home children might come in contact with that even small amounts can be fatal include adult and children’s medications, cleaning products, liquid nicotine (e-cigarette liquid), antifreeze, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline and kerosene.

To prevent reduce the risk of accidental poisoning, a good rule of thumb is to put these and any other items that could possibly be dangerous somewhere where kids can’t get to them. Toddlers and school-aged children are known for their curiosity and often explore new things by putting what they come in contact with into their mouth, either eating or drinking it. Think about it – some poisonous substances are colorful or their unique shapes easily attract a child’s eye – children’s and adult medications sometimes look like candy and dangerous liquids might be the same color as familiar juice or sports drinks.

And, if there is a change in your normal daily routine, parents need to be more cautious. For example, during the holidays if your children are going to be visiting in other family members homes, the safeguards used in your home may not be the same where you are visiting. The same goes for vacations. There is no substitute for vigilance — make sure to keep a closer eye on children in new surroundings to prevent poisoning.

To help prevent poisoning in your home, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these guidelines:

  • Store medicine, cleaning products, laundry supplies, paints/varnishes and pesticides in their original packing in locked cabinets or containers, as well as out of sight and reach of children. This includes liquid nicotine from e-cigarettes. A small dose of liquid nicotine can be fatal in a child.
  • Install safety latches that automatically lock when you close a cabinet door. Remember, these latches can malfunction and/or the curious child can defeat it. Again, the safest measure is to store these products out of sight and reach of children
  • Ensure that all medications are in child-proof bottles/containers.
  • NEVER refer to medicine as “candy” or any other name that might appeal to a child.
  • When giving liquid medicine to a child, use the measuring cup or spoon that is included with the product. NEVER use the kitchen spoon.
  • NEVER place poisonous products in drink or food containers.
  • Know the poison control number – 1-800-222-1222. Store it in your contacts and/or memorize so that it can be readily accessible in an emergency situation.
  • If you do not need a potential poisonous substance, throw it away immediately. Why risk the chance of an accidental poisoning in a child?

By taking these simple actions, your home will be a safer place and you will take positive steps toward preventing an accidental poisoning. For more information, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics.




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