Dear Mr. Morton,
Last year you wrote a column about “pretty poisons” and how dangerous they are to preschool children. I have two preschool boys. Please update that column. I will tape it to my refrigerator door! — L.W.
Poison control centers receive more than two million calls annually asking for help on how to treat possible poisonings. Fifty-three percent of those calls involve children under the age of 6, with many at the toddler stage. Not surprising, 92 percent of all poisonings occur in the home. Unintentional poisonings kill more than 30 children per year.
I interviewed Dr. Mark Hoelzle of the Fremont Memorial Hospital, and he told me about an “out of sight, out of mind strategy.” The most important thing you can do, Hoelzle said, is to not only keep household chemicals and medicines out of the reach of children, but to lock them up as well. This makes much sense, because some children can open child-resistant packaging. Also, it’s good to place the poison control center number next to your telephone and call immediately if a poisoning occurs. The most common areas in the home where child-poisoning occurs are the kitchen, bathroom, garage, and storage areas.
Lock up your everyday cleaning products like ammonia, disinfectants, soaps, bleaches, detergents, furniture polish, oven and drain cleaners, rust removers, and toilet bowl cleaners. They all contain chemicals that, if ingested, are particularly harmful to a child. Make these products inaccessible to your two preschoolers by storing them on high shelves that are out of reach, or in cabinets with childproof locks on the doors. But always remember that your small children must be constantly supervised around the home — never underestimate their ability to get into areas and containers that appear “childproof.”
According to the Northern Ohio Poison Center’s log, children can mistake containers of cleaning products for food, including “a round, green can of Comet bleach for a can of Parmesan cheese, vitamin or prescription drug pills for sweet candy, colorful and sweet-smelling liquid soap and lamp kerosene for pop, ammonia or rubbing alcohol for water, E-Lax Chocolate laxatives for Hershey’s Chocolates, colored lamp oil for cranberry juice, mothballs for mini-marshmallows, Pine-Sol for apple juice, windshield washer fluid for Blue Punch or Kool Aid” … the list is endless!
The consequences for toddlers ingesting such “pretty poisons” are serious, since the poisons have a rapid effect on children due to their smaller body size and quicker metabolism rate.
As a final thought, in my opinion, perhaps toddlers shouldn’t be told that medicine tastes like candy, or perhaps manufacturers shouldn’t make medicines taste so good, so kids are not tempted to seek out and eat medicine unattended.
For a poison emergency, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800) 222–1222.
Dr. Robert Morton worked as a school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. Contact him at the Family Journal, www.family