Dangerous Household Items for Children
Haley Jackson, PNP
National Poison Prevention Week is observed during the third week of March every year, and exists to shed light on the risk of being poisoned by household products. As a pediatric nurse practitioner and a mother, I am constantly mindful of risks associated with household products with some listed below that may be surprising to parents. Keep reading for information on household toxicity risks for your children and helpful tips to help them stay safe and healthy.
Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning. Keep harmful medications away from your children by doing the following:
• Keep gummy medications like melatonin gummies out of reach and ensure children know these are not candy.
• Make sure purses are put away if they contain pills or medication bottles. Remind guests to keep purses and jackets out of sight if they contain medication.
• Find a place to keep your medications that is high enough where children cannot reach. If using a pill organizer, make sure it is kept out of reach as these are usually not child-proof.
• Never leave loose pills on counters or tables. Children are naturally curious and these may look intriguing to them.
• Keep medications in their original bottle and always listen for the “click” to ensure they are properly closed. Twist until you cannot twist any more.
• Teach your children about medication safety and never tell them medicine is candy.
Lithium coin and button batteries are other toxic household items which may come as a surprise. These can cause esophageal burns and erosion within two hours, and these harmful impacts can become life-threatening fast. Batteries can even get lodged into the nasal cavity or ear canal and cause damage quickly, leading to infections as well as impacting breathing, smell, and hearing due to erosion. Batteries of this type may be found in TV remotes, key fobs, calculators, children’s toys, watches, thermometers, bathroom scales, and more. To keep your children safe from the dangers of these batteries, ensure you follow these guidelines:
• Look for batteries in child-resistant packaging, especially in any new toys.
• Make sure battery compartments are secure, and consider taping them for extra security.
• Be aware of the specific items in your house that have these types of batteries. Store them out of reach of younger children. Do this by hanging keys up high, keeping thermometers in a high cabinet, reminding older siblings to put away games and toys when not using them, and supervising playtime.
• Dispose of old batteries immediately in an outside garbage can. Even “dead” batteries are dangerous.
• Talk with your children about battery safety! Explain that these are for adults to handle, and discuss the dangers of improper battery use.
Alcohol is another household item that can cause serious harm to children. Ensure alcoholic drinks are not left sitting out where children can easily access and ingest them. Be mindful of other household items containing alcohol, like mouthwash, food extracts (vanilla and almond for example), hand sanitizer, perfume, and cologne.
Make sure to monitor children around lead paint to avoid interactions with toxic compounds. Monitor walls, baseboards, and furniture for chipped paint if the items were made prior to 1978. There is no safe level of lead for children. Closely watch and discourage eating or picking paint chips from walls.
Other Household Items
Be mindful of other toxic household items like hair spray, nail polish and remover, household cleaning products, aerosol sprays, pesticides, and laundry/dishwasher pods. Use liquid or powder detergent if you have children under age six. Keep cleaning products in original bottles, and make sure to avoid using old soda bottles or other containers that could easily be mistaken for other items. Never place pesticides on the floor of your home or garage, do not use insect sprays on mattresses or furniture, and use a locked area in the garage for supplies like antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, fertilizer, and bug repellant.
Ultimately, prevention is the key, but in case of an emergency, be proactive by leaving numbers for Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) and your child’s provider nearby, as well as your work and cell phone numbers, and the number of an emergency contact. In the same way we teach our children to hold hands when they cross the street and be aware of other dangers, we must also instill mindfulness around toxic household items.
To learn more about pediatric and adolescent services at HopeHealth, visit our website at hope-health.org or call (843) 667-9414.