Prevent childhood poisoning now, all yearlong

by Kira M. Koon
U.S. Army Public Health Command

National Poison Prevention Week, March 18 to 24, is a time nationally designated to recognize the dangers of poisoning and how to prevent it. However, poison prevention should be practiced all year-round to ensure the safety of your loved ones, especially your children.

Though all parents want to keep their children healthy and safe, the truth is that the home can be a very dangerous place if parents do not take the right actions to prevent childhood poisoning. Every day, 374 children in the U.S. are treated in an emergency department and two children die from poisoning. For every 10 poison exposures in children, about nine occur in the home.

Poisons can be found in almost every room of every house and curious children will often investigate anything that is within their reach. However, with the right knowledge and information, parents have the ability to play a life-saving role in protecting their children from household poisonings. The first step is to realize what items in your home can be poisonous.

Everyday items in your home, such as household cleaners, medications and cosmetics, can cause severe illness and even death if ingested. Common household items that can be poisonous include medicine, mouthwash, beauty supplies, cleaners, bug spray, anti-freeze, alcohol, cigarettes and certain household plants.
Once you realize the potential poisons in your home, your next step is to take action to prevent your children from having access to them.

Lock them up. Lock up potentially poisonous household products in locked or childproof cabinets out of children’s sight and reach.

Keep an eye on them. Never leave potentially poisonous household products unattended while in use, and put products back to their locked places as soon as you are finished using them.

Don’t keep it if you don’t need it. Safely dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications.

Read the label. Always read labels and follow directions exactly on all medications and household products.

Keep it original. Keep products in their original containers. Your child may think a cleaning product is a drink if you store it in a soda bottle.

Refer to medicine as medicine. Never refer to medicine or vitamins as “candy.”

Know the number. Put the local or nationwide poison control center phone number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every telephone in your house, and program it into your cell phone. The poison control center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the poison control center or 911 if you think a child has been poisoned.

For more information, see the following resources:
• U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
• Safe Kids USA, Inc.,
• Poison,