Diaper rash ointment, pain medicines and perfume probably do not come to mind as serious health hazards, but they are among the most common poisons ingested by children. Poisons are any substance that is swallowed, inhaled or enters the body through the eyes, ears or skin and causes harm if it is not used the right way, by the right person, or in the correct amount. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional poisoning causes more than 700,000 emergency department visits annually and is second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of unintentional injury death.
Poisoning can happen when it is least expected, such as when a child eats some vitamins thinking they are candy. Some other common poisons that children may encounter include nail polish, lotions, make-up, cosmetics, plants, cleaning products such as laundry detergent or bleach, over-the-counter pain and cold relievers, thermometers, and topical preparations including acne cream, calamine lotion or hydrogen peroxide.
Common poisons for adults include pain medicines like aspirin, oxycodone, acetaminophen, methadone and ibuprofen, sedatives, sleeping pills, antipsychotics, antidepressants, cardiovascular drugs, household cleaning products and alcohol. Some of the most dangerous poisons for both adults and children include antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, drain openers, rust removers, toilet bowl and oven cleaners, kerosene, lamp oil, gasoline and pesticides.
Poison prevention begins with being aware of possible hazards around the house and taking the necessary precautions to prevent poisoning.
· Keep all harmful household products, including medications, cleaners, paints and pesticides, in cabinets or drawers that either lock or have a safety latch.
· Do not put poisonous products in food or drink containers. Store them in original containers and make sure they are correctly labeled.
· Do not mix household products together. Mixing ammonia and bleach together, for example, can produce toxic gases.
· Purchase products that have child-resistant packaging, such as medicine bottles with safety caps.
· When around children, do not refer to medicine as “candy” or by any other appealing name.
· Store food and cleaners in separate cabinets or rooms.
· Wear protective clothing, such as gloves, long sleeves or shoes, when spraying pesticides or other chemicals. Put potentially poisonous products away after use.
· Open the window and turn on the fan when using chemical products inside.
· Follow label directions when taking or giving medications.
· Place carbon monoxide detectors in the home.
Despite best efforts, poisonings can occur. In these situations, remain calm and call 911 if the victim has collapsed, is having seizures or convulsions, or not breathing. If the victim has swallowed poison and is alert and awake, have them spit out any remaining poison. Do not have them vomit or use syrup of ipecac. If poison comes in contact with the skin, remove clothing and rinse with lukewarm water for 15 minutes. Poison in the eye can be flushed with a steady stream of room temperature water. If poisonous fumes are inhaled, go outside for fresh air immediately.
For any questions about poisons or poison prevention, call the Center for Poison Control and Prevention at 1-800-222-1222.