March 6, 2006
You may have heard the
expression, "It's too quiet." Parents with small children
often get nervous when they cannot see (or hear) what their children
are doing. While quiet may signal a peaceful child who has learned
to play alone, the question of what that child has found as a source
of entertainment is an important issue. As a babysitter, older sibling,
or caregiver of any sort, it is important to frequently check on
children -- especially if all is quiet.
"Children love to
explore! Young children cannot determine if something is poisonous
or not. Imagine how confusing the world can be to a child that cannot
read. If a child's favorite drink is blue Koolaid and a bottle of
Windex is left on the counter within his reach, he/she will probably
drink it based on the color alone. It looks familiar to him/her.
A small child can easily mistake a cleaning product, medicine and/or
personal grooming supplies as something to eat or drink. ... There
are many medicines that look like candy, including vitamins and
(The above web page includes pictures of products in side by side
While it can be difficult
for those who can not read to know what a product is, it can be
made even more difficult if the product is in a container that looks
"safe" to a child.
"KEEP ALL PRODUCTS
IN ORIGINAL CONTAINERS
Never place kerosene, anti-freeze,
paints, or solvents in cups, glasses, milk or soft-drink bottles,
or other utensils customarily used for food or drinks. Never transfer
products to a bottle without a child-resistant closure."
are not perfect, and accidents happen. But every precaution taken
can help reduce the number of injuries children suffer each year.
"A 2-year-old child
in Fitchburg went to St. Mary's Hospital after drinking a small
amount of bleach. The incident happened ... when the child's mother
borrowed a cup of bleach from a neighbor and set it on the counter
... most childhood poisonings happen while a product is being used
by an adult. In these cases, experts said that even the best child-resistant
lids don't help because they're usually not on or not on securely.
Even when these lids are on containers and meet federal standards,
Donna Lotzer, poison education coordinator at the University of
Wisconsin Hospital Poison Prevention Education Center, said that
the lids aren't absolute protection. 'It's supposed to take enough
time so that the adult, who is hopefully nearby, can find out what's
going on and stop them from gaining access to the container,' Lotzer
No potentially dangerous
product is made completely "child safe" through the wonders
of packaging. When a product is sealed correctly, it can slow down
the process. When a product is not sealed correctly, it can provide
a false sense of security for the caregiver. When a product is out
for use, any "child safety" packaging is removed so that
the adult can access the product -- and so can a child....
iron pills and food supplements containing iron), household substances,
insect sprays, kerosene, lighter fluid, some furniture polishes,
turpentine, points, solvents, and products containing lye and acids
are most frequently the cause of accidental poisoning among children."
While some products may
be easier to distinguish as potential dangers, others can be more
difficult, especially for children. Products (such as vitamins)
children know are okay to eat. When these products look (or taste)
like candy, caregivers need to be especially careful to help children
understand the the potential dangers when one has "too much
of a good thing."
caused by accidental overdoses of iron-containing supplements are
the biggest concern of poison control experts, consumer protection
groups, and health-care providers. Iron-containing supplements are
the leading cause of pediatric poisoning deaths for children under
6 in the United States. ... Although iron poisoning is the biggest
concern when it comes to childhood poisoning, there is also concern
about other drugs. 'Over-the-counter [OTC] diet pills have the potential
to be lethal to children, as do OTC stimulants used to keep you
awake and decongestant tablets,' says George C. Rodgers, M.D., Ph.D.,
medical director of the Kentucky Regional Poisoning Center. ...
'Antidepressant drugs have a high degree of toxicity,' he continues.
'They are cardiac and central nervous system toxins, and it doesn't
take much of them to do harm, particularly in children.' ... The
marketing of pediatric vitamins is also a cause of concern for Rodgers.
'Because they're marketed to look like candy or cartoon characters,
it looks like candy and doesn't seem like medicine,' he explains.
In addition, children frequently mimic the behavior of their parents.
Children who watch their parents take pills may want to do it, too--with
potentially fatal results.'"
With latches and lids to
slow them down, some parents may think that children will not get
into unsafe products if they are properly sealed. In fact, these
lids can slow down curious children -- or they can offer a challenge
to the determined child. Potentially dangerous products need to
be more than just sealed with a "child safe" lid.
out of the easy grasp of children four and younger in the home is
a significant health issue in the United States because they are
more likely to be hospitalized for unintentionally swallowing medications
than other causes of unintentional injury, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a report released today.
... Also, over 550,000 incidents involving medications are reported
each year for children under age six. For these reasons parents
and others who are responsible for supervising children should remain
vigilant in protecting children from inadvertent access to medications."
"[P]arents and others
who are responsible for supervising children should remain vigilant..."
"*When possible, keep
the medicines in their original containers. If medicines are transferred
to other containers, be extra vigilant to ensure children do not
have access to them. If you store medicines in your purse or a pill
box, make sure that children do not have access.
*Discard all unused medicines by flushing down the toilet.
* Avoid taking medicines in front of children, because they tend
to imitate adults. Do not call any medicine 'candy.'
* Make sure your visitors do not leave their medicines where children
can easily find them.
* Post the poison control number 1-800-222-1222 on or near every
phone at home. Put it in your speed dial on your mobile phone."
Even the most careful caregiver
can make a mistake. Another reason to keep medications and potentially
hazardous materials in their original containers is so that it is
easy for anyone who is caring for the child to tell what the child
has gotten into if there is a concern.
"If you see a bottle
of pills or some other dangerous product standing open or partially
spilled, your child may have gotten into it and become poisoned.
Unusual symptoms that may accompany poisoning include:
* Sleepiness even though it's not nap time
* Inability to follow you with his or her eyes
* Burns or stains around the mouth
* Strange-smelling breath"
If a caregiver has any
concerns or suspicions, it is important to get help as soon as possible.
"If your child is
unconscious, having convulsions or having difficulty breathing,
call 911 immediately or take him or her to the closest hospital
emergency room. If your child is conscious, call 1-800-222-1222
and you will be automatically routed to your local poison control
center. Have the following information ready:
* Your child's age and weight
* Descriptions of contents and other facts printed on product containers
or medicine bottles
* Time that the poisoning may have occurred
* Your telephone number"
Questions of the Week:
How can you (or anyone) know when to call 911 verses when to call
poison control? What do you, your peers, and your family members
need to know about potential hazards in your home, or in the homes
of those you visit? What might people have in their backpacks or
purses that might cause a problem if they were to visit a home where
there were small children? In what situations would it make a difference
where products and medications are stored in your home if you do
not have young children living with you? Do you think your peers
and family members -- or those for whom you babysit -- are aware
of the potential dangers in their homes? How would you educate people
about these potential hazards?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum