Tips for preventing accidental poisonings

Every day, over 300 children in the U.S. are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned. Emergency visits for medication poisonings are twice as common as poisonings from other household products (such as cleaning solutions and personal care products). Nine out of 10 poisonings occur in the home.

Everyday items in your home such as medications, household cleaners, and even a leaky gas furnace can pose serious poisoning risks to children. Keeping potentially dangerous substances out of small hands is a sure way to prevent unintentional poisoning. Here are some ways to help keep children safe:

Household Poisons

Store potentially poisonous household products and medications locked out of your child's sight and reach.

Read labels to find out if a product is poisonous. Unsafe household products include toilet cleaner, bleach, and dishwasher products. Other potentially harmful products include medicines, makeup, plants, pesticides, art supplies, and alcohol.

Never leave children unattended while using poisonous products.

A handbag is a possible source of poisons. Store handbags out of reach of young children.

Purchase child-resistant packaging when possible.

Use child safety locks on cabinets where poisonous items are stored.

Keep the nationwide poison control center number (800-222-1222) near every phone in the house.


Store medications out of your child's sight and reach.

Do not leave medicines in your handbag, unlocked cabinets or drawers.

Do not leave out loose pills.

Choose child-resistant packaging whenever possible.

Never leave medications unattended while you are using them.

Program the toll-free poison control center number (800-222-1222) into all phones and keep it near every phone in the house.

Safely dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs and over the counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements. To dispose of medicines, mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and throw them away. You can also drop off expired or unused medications to the Bennington County Sheriff's Department (442-4900) or the Manchester Police Department (362-0222).

When administering medicine to children:

Always read labels, and give medicines to children based on their weight and age.

Do not take medicine in front of children, or refer to medicine as "candy."

Carbon Monoxide

Install a CO alarm outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.

Test alarms every month and replace them every five years.

Have all gas, oil or coal burning appliances inspected every year.

Do not use a grill, generator or camp stove inside your home, garage or near a window.

Never leave a car engine running inside a garage, even if the garage door is open.

If you suspect your child has been poisoned:

Take the product to the phone and call 800-222-1222. If the child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.

Do not induce vomiting or give the child anything unless directed.

Follow the operator's instructions.

We all want to keep our children safe and happy. Knowing how to prevent causes of child injury, like poisoning, is an important step toward this goal.

Emily Rice is a physician assistant with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians and cares for patients at SVMC Pediatrics in Bennington. To schedule an appointment with Emily Rice, call 447-3930.


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