Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on March 8, 1999. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Poison Proof Homes To Protect Children
By Lani Jefcoat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Home may feel like the safest place, but it is often a dangerous environment for children with poison hazards around every corner.
Children age 18 months to 3 years old face the highest risk of being poisoned. Children constantly explore their environment and tend to put things in their mouths. In some cases, adults carelessly or unknowingly leave poisonous items within their reach.
March 21 through 27 is National Poison Prevention Week. The theme "Children Act Fast ... So Do Poisons" focuses on poison proofing homes to reduce the risks to children.
"Children face a very real risk of poison exposure in homes," said Ruth Morgan, pesticide coordinator and pesticide impact assessment specialist at Mississippi State University. "Poisonings can come from known dangerous chemicals as well as common household substances."
The severity of any poisoning depends on factors such as the size and age of victims, the amount swallowed, the time since swallowing and the substance swallowed.
"Just a taste of some chemicals can be toxic, while it can take more for other substances to be dangerous," Morgan said.
Mike Hughes, managing director of the Mississippi Poison Control Center, said the center handled 15,567 cases of human exposure to toxins in 1998. Of these, 70 percent were children less than 6 years old. Thirty percent of exposures were to medications, 20 percent to household products, 15 percent to pesticides and 15 percent were exposure to toxic plants.
"Almost every room in the house contains a potential poison hazard for children," Morgan said. "Use of the sour-faced Mr.Yuk stickers is an effective way of teaching children what things are poisonous and harmful to them."
Other safety measures can reduce the risk of accidental poisonings in the home:
* Keep all products in their original containers.
* Never refer to medicine as candy. * Clean out old medicines frequently and flush to dispose of them.
* Rinse empty containers and dispose of them properly.
* Never take or give medicines in the dark.
* Purchase products with child-resistant caps and close tightly after use.
* Store cleaning supplies and medicines in cabinets with safety latches out of reach and out of sight of children.
* Store medicines, cleaning agents and food separately.
* Keep poison control center, physician and hospital phone numbers readily available.
Syrup of ipecac, which induces vomiting, should be on hand in every household in case of accidental poisoning. Activated charcoal is a toxin-absorbing product now available that can be added to water or a carbonated beverage and mixed into a drinkable slurry.
"Vomiting and certain remedies are dangerous in some poisonings, so contact your local poison control center, physician or hospital prior to using syrup of ipecac or activated charcoal," Morgan said.
Possible signs of poisoning are stains, burns or odor on clothes or skin, an unusual odor on the breath, an open bottle or spilled contents, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain, dizziness or drowsiness, excessive agitation or irritability, and shallow or difficult breathing.
"If poisoning occurs, call the nearest poison control center and have the container handy so you can read the active ingredients off the label," Morgan said. "Also, take the container with you if you go to the doctor."
Poison prevention packets with information about poison proofing your home are available from the Mississippi Regional Poison Control Center.
The regional poison control center in Mississippi can be reached at (601) 354-7660 or the Memphis office at (901) 528-6048. In most communities, dialing "911" also provides quick access to emergency assistance.