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Preventing Accidental Poisoning

by Audrey T. Hingley

Poison-proofing your home is the key to preventing childhood poisonings. In the case of iron-containing pills or any medicine:


Poison-Proofing Your Home

  • Always close the container as soon as you've finished using it. Properly secure the child-resistant packaging, and put it away immediately in a place where children can't reach it.

  • Keep pills in their original container.

  • Keep iron-containing tablets, and all medicines, out of reach--and out of sight--of children.

  • Never keep medicines on a countertop or bedside table.

  • Follow medicine label directions carefully to avoid accidental overdoses or misdoses that could result in accidental poisoning.

For other substances, buy the least hazardous products that will serve your purposes. When buying art supplies, for example, look for products that are safe for children. For hazardous products such as gasoline, kerosene, and paint thinners that are often kept on hand indefinitely, buy only as much as you need and safely get rid of what you don't use. Never transfer these substances to other containers. People often use cups, soft-drink bottles, or milk cartons to store leftover paint thinner or turpentine. This is a bad idea because children associate cups and bottles with food and drink.

The kitchen and bathroom are the most likely unsafe areas. (Medicines should never be stored in the bathroom for another reason: a bathroom's warm, moist environment tends to cause changes or disintegration of the product in these rooms.) Any cabinet containing a potentially poisonous item should be locked.

"Bathrooms with medicines, kitchens with cleaning products, even cigarette butts left out, can be toxic to kids," Rodgers explains. "And remember that child-resistant caps are child-resistant, not childproof. The legal definition is that it takes greater than five minutes for 80 percent of 5-year-olds to get into it: that means 20 percent can get in in less time! Kids are inventive, and can often figure it out. And leftover liquor in glasses on the counter after parties? Don't do it!"

Alcohol can cause drunkenness as well as serious poisoning leading to seizures, coma, and even death in young children. Children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol than are adults, and it doesn't take much alcohol to produce such effects. Alcohol-laced products, such as some mouthwashes, aftershaves or colognes, can cause the same problems.

Garages and utility rooms should also be checked for potential poison hazards. Antifreeze, windshield washing fluid, and other products should be stored out of children's reach in a locked cabinet. Childproof safety latches can be purchased at your local hardware store.

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