Words by Paige Townley
Summertime is always a prime time for enjoying family time, both at home and out of doors. But summer is also the time of year when children are at an increased risk in potential poisonings.
In 2020 alone, poison control centers provided telephone help for more than 2.1 million human poison exposures, according to the National Capital Poison Center. That breaks down to one poison exposure reported to U.S. poison control centers every 15 seconds. Summertime is actually when poison centers receive the most calls about potential poisonings in children, notes Becky Devore of the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama. “During the summer, children are home and there’s a lot going on that increases exposure, whether it’s spraying for bugs or cleaning the pool or even just cleaning the house,” she says. “On average, 75 percent of the exposures happen when parents are actively using the products. A parent can be interrupted, sit the item down for just a few seconds and turn away, and that’s when the child is incredibly tempted to pick it up. APIC recommends bringing products in use with you if interrupted.”
To keep children as safe as possible this summer—or any time of year—Becky shares her top four tips on what parents can do to prevent potential poisonings.
Watch Out for Look-a-Likes
A common scenario that leads to poisonings in children is look-a-like products. A child may look at a bottle with a blue liquid in it and think it’s a sports drink, but it easily can be dental rinse, a cleanser, or a body spray, which is high in alcohol. Or a white jug of bleach can easily look like a container of milk. “These types of things can be very confusing to a young child,” Becky says. “Even a pill box with various color pills in it can look like candy to a child. A tube of medicinal cream can easily be mistaken by a child for toothpaste. The list of potential scenarios for accidental poisoning with look-a-likes is much longer than you’d realize.”
Store Potential Hazards Out of Reach
Because young children can easily mistake medicine for candy or cleaners for sports drinks, these potential hazards need to be kept locked where a child cannot access them. These types of items also need to be kept in their original, labeled packaging, Becky stresses. “Keep chemicals in the original labeled containers because if an ingestion or exposure happens, you know exactly what you’re dealing with,” she says.
Watch Your Words
A common mistake many parents tend to make is referring to medication as candy. From the very beginning, children need to know that’s not the case. “We really encourage parents to not call medication candy because children will be tempted to ingest it,” Becky explains. “We believe it’s best for parents to avoid taking their medication in front of children because children want to mimic parents’ behavior.”
Even when parents or caregivers taken every precaution possible, accidental poisonings can still occur. That’s why parents and caregivers need to be prepared in case an ingestion or exposure happens. Becky recommends programming the Alabama Poison Information Center phone number, 1.800.222.1222, in their phones. “We’re just a quick phone call away for help,” she says.