Children often look up to — and want to be like — their parents. If they see mom or dad behaving a certain way, they try to copy that behavior.
Unfortunately, this desire can prove to be dangerous for children. If they see their parents taking medicine, they may try to open a pill bottle and take some medicine as well, not realizing this could put them in the hospital.
Newton Fire/EMS battalion chief Dick Gehring said that due to children's natural curiosity, it's vital parents keep medicines and other potentially harmful products "out of reach" and "out of sight."
"Accessibility is the key," he said. "If they're not able to get to it, they're not able to get into it."
National Poison Prevention Week is March 17-23, and the Poison Control Center and Safe Kids Kansas said this is a good time for parents to evaluate the safety of their home and take steps to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning.
More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the nation’s poison centers, and in Kansas alone, the state's Poison Control Center received more than 30,000 calls in 2012. Approximately three out of every four of those calls were for a child under the age of five.
Gehring said the most common type of poisoning is from everyday household items, such as medications and cleaning supplies.
Although child-resistant packaging is credited with saving hundreds of children’s lives since its introduction in the 1970s, it still isn't foolproof. Children can figure out how to get past safety barriers, and they may use a table or countertop to reach a cabinet that would normally be out of reach.
Gehring said it's best if children don't even know hazardous products are in the house and never observe mom or dad using them. "As innovative as kids are, not knowing where something is at might be a better action."
Despite people's best efforts, sometimes accidents do happen, and so Safe Kids Kansas encourages parents and caregivers to keep the poison center’s toll-free hotline number, (800) 222-1222, near each phone in the home and program the number into every cell phone. This number connects you to your local poison control center from anywhere in the United States, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
“When seconds count, poison expertise is what you need,” said Daling McMoran with the Poison Control Center. “Call the Poison Control Center the moment you suspect there has been an exposure. It could save a life.”
If you think your child has been poisoned, Gehring recommends immediately trying to identify the substance they've ingested and read the label on the package to see if there are any warnings. The Poison Control Center will determine the severity level of the poisoning, and whether the child needs to be seen by a doctor or 911 needs to be called right away. Do not induce vomiting or give the child any fluid or medication unless directed.
Safe Kids Kansas and the Poison Control Center offer these additional tips:
· Never give adult medications to children.
· Never call medication candy or tell children it tastes like candy. While this tactic may encourage children to take medication when they're supposed to, they'll also become curious about adult medication and wonder if it tastes like "candy" too.
· Always use the dosing device packaged with the medications. Never use a household utensil, such as a teaspoon or tablespoon, to measure medication.
· Remind grandparents, babysitters and visitors to keep purses and bags that contain medicine up and away when they visit your home.
· Parents and grandparents should be mindful of weekly pill dividers. While convenient for keeping track of dosages of medications, they also are easy for kids to open.
For more information about poison prevention, visit www.safekidskansas.org or www.kumed.com/medical-services/poison-control.