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Protect Your Child Against Poisons

Types of Hidden Hazards That Lurk in Common Household Products

Children act quickly. So do poisons. Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, Texas, urges parents to become educated on preventing unintentional poisonings and deaths among children and infants.

"You absolutely cannot underestimate the curiosity of a child," says Dr. Joan Shook, chief of emergency medicine at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is to assume their child won't be subject to normal growth and development, both of which include a certain level of curiosity. Sometimes parents will think, 'My child is so smart that he or she will figure that out,' or, 'My child is so good he or she wouldn't touch anything.' That mode of thinking can be dangerous."

It is estimated that 30 children die each year from unintentional poisoning by household products. Poison Control Centers around the country take almost two million calls annually asking for help or advice on how to treat a possible poisoning.

Potentially dangerous products include over-the-counter items such as cough medicines, mouthwash, aspirin and eyewashes; prescription drugs; and household products such as furniture polish, drain cleaner, window cleaner and glue.

Pay Attention

"Most poisonings occur when parents are not watching children as closely as usual," says Dr. Shook. "Poison Control Centers often refer to the evening hours as the 'arsenic hours.' The hectic evening routine of getting dinner on the table and everyone settled for the day can cause lapses in parental attention."

Everyone has adverse reactions to poisons, but when children are exposed to poison, they are more likely to suffer serious consequences because they are smaller, have faster metabolic rates and their bodies are less capable of handling toxic chemicals.

Poison Prevention

To prevent accidental poisonings in the home, Texas Children's Hospital suggests these tips:

  • Buy products packaged in child-resistant materials.
  • Keep all chemicals locked and out of sight of children.
  • Keep items in their original containers.
  • Clean out medicine cabinets periodically, and dispose of unneeded and unwanted items.
  • Never refer to medicine as candy.
  • Avoid taking medication in front of children.

Age-Related Common Injuries
A study in the journal Pediatrics shows that there is a correlation between type of injury and the age of a child. By studying data on injuries and deaths obtained from California hospital records, the researchers were able to determine a leading cause of injury for each three-month period, from newborn to 3 years of age.

From 3 to 5 months, battering is the leading cause of injury. Falls from furniture topped the list for babies 6 to 8 months old. Children 12 to 17 months old are most often victims of hot liquid and vapor injuries. And pedestrian injuries – while walking near motor vehicles – are the leading cause of injury for kids 36 to 47 months old.

Overall, medication poisoning is the highest cause of injury for babies and children younger than 3 (and is highest for those that are between 18 and 35 months).

This study examined child injury differently than studies in the past because it separated the injuries into age-related development stages. By doing this, say the researchers, the data should be more useful to caregivers and pediatricians in developing injury-prevention strategies for each age group.

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