The world around them is new, and children learn by using all their senses— sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Letting children explore their world while keeping them safe is a big job for parents.
The highest accident rate occurs in children between ages 1 and 3, when curiosity is a full-blown, normal, healthy characteristic. Curious children often will investigate — and sometimes try to eat or drink — anything they can get into. Exposure also can happen by breathing fumes or getting a substance on their skin or in their eyes.
Taking precautions to prevent poisoning is much easier on parents than trying to determine whether a child has been in contact with a dangerous substance. Thankfully, there are ways to help poison-proof your home.
Avoid taking medications in front of children who naturally will imitate their parents. Never refer to medicine as “candy.” Don’t store medications, vitamins or supplements on counters, refrigerator tops or window sills. Keep medications in original containers with safety-lock tops. Get rid of meds when no longer in use. Community Drug Take-Back events provide an opportunity to clean out old medications.
Remove detergents and cleaners from under the sink. Use child safety latches where needed. Never store food and household cleaners together. Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach. Pet food is not a poison, but it is a choking hazard, and there’s risk of bacterial contamination.
Use child safety latches wherever you store cosmetics, hair products, sprays, fingernail preparations, perfumes, toothpaste and mouthwash.
Be aware that sachets in drawers and closets are a potential poison.
Keep detergents, fabric softeners and bleach products in their original containers and out of reach; use child safety latches.
Buy hazardous products only when needed and in the amount required for a specific job. Never transfer products like gasoline, antifreeze or insecticides to a soft drink bottle, cup or bowl that could attract a child or pet. Read product labels and keep poisonous products in a locked area.
Indoor and outdoor plants
Common plants may contain poisonous substances. The Routt County Extension Office has more information. Store bulbs and seeds out of sight and out of reach. Teach children not to put leaves, stems, bark, nuts or berries in their mouths. Don’t assume a plant is safe for humans just because birds or other wildlife eat it.
Be firm in saying ‘no’
Redirect children to safe learning activities. Consult your child’s health care provider and your parent education network on how to teach safety at each stage of child development.
Know the number
Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and your child has collapsed or isn’t breathing. If you think a child has been in contact with a poison but is awake and alert, call the national poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 for 24/7 connection with an expert on a wide range of potential poisons, including insect bites. Information also is available through the website of Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center: www.rmpdc.org.
Information is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.
Beth Watson is a public health nurse at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, which has been a member of the Routt County Early Childhood Council since its inception in 1997.