Guest Blog: Dr. Mom on Poison Prevention

By Dr. Melissa Arca

Poison Prevention: Safety for Kids

Your age-by-age guide to keeping kids safe from medicines and household products

Unfortunately, more than 67,000 children are rushed to an emergency room annually for accidental ingestion or poisoning. As parents, we know the importance of keeping our kids away from potentially dangerous situations. But the reality is that kids are fast, curious, and impulsive. It truly is up to us as parents and healthcare providers to maintain vigilance, stay one step ahead, and continually educate our children on the importance of poison prevention.

Toddlers and preschoolers

Toddlers are a fast and curious bunch. We have all been through that infant to toddler stage where everything the child touches ends up in their mouths. They definitely taste first and ask questions later. That’s why it’s so important for parents of children under the age of 6 to remain vigilant and absolutely keep all medications and household chemicals up and out of reach.

Do not simply rely on the child-resistant containers that pills and vitamins come in. A recent study revealed that children as young as 3 had no problem opening these “child-resistant” caps. The best way to keep young children safe is to keep all medicines, vitamins, chemicals, and laundry detergents high and out of reach.

Contrary to popular belief, most of these young children are not climbing up to medicine cabinets and getting the medications there. They are finding them on floors, pillboxes left on countertops, and from Grandma’s or Mom’s purse.

A few practical tips for parents of toddlers:

·         Check floors daily for wayward pills or vitamins.

·         Never refer to medicine that your child has to take as “candy”.

·         Ask grandparents to keep their medicines high and out of reach when children are visiting.

·         Do not keep medications or vitamins in your purse. We all know how much toddlers love to “explore” them.

·         Be wary of detergent pods that can look like colorful candy to a young child.

·         Keep all medicines, vitamins, chemicals, and detergents locked and out of reach.

·         Do not let your child “play” with a medicine bottle or as a distraction while you’re doing something else.

·         Program the number for poison control into your phone and have it posted on the wall at home: 1-800-222-1222

School-age children

By now your child should have stopped putting everything in his/her mouth, but vigilance and education is still paramount. Talk to your child about never taking a pill, vitamin, or liquid without showing you and asking you first. Even a simple children’s multivitamin can be dangerous if a child takes too many. Tell your child that taking a medication when he/she doesn’t need it is not good for their bodies. No matter how good it tastes.

Continue to store medications and chemicals high and out of reach. Reinforce safety by talking to them about the dangers of ingesting an unknown substance.

Tweens and Teens

Just when you thought you were out of the woods once your toddler stopped putting everything in her mouth, well…your child becomes a teenager. And with that, comes some risk tasking and impulsivity. Parents of teens absolutely need to be in the know when it comes to dangerous teen trends and/or dares.

Take the cinnamon challenge for instance. Teens video tape themselves trying to swallow a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon without any liquid. This has resulted in numerous calls to poison control centers and a few teens having to be hospitalized for lung damage.

This is the age where we as parents and healthcare providers need to emphasize to teens that they should not use any household product or medication for anything other than its intended use. Teens may take cough medicine, parents’ prescription medication, or other prescription medications and abuse them.

This is not the time to let your guard down, parents. Know what medicines are in your home and keep them safely stored in a medicine cabinet or other designated place. Talk to your teens about the dangers of medication abuse, underage drinking, and things like the cinnamon challenge.

You are your child’s first defense against accidental poisoning.

And remember, if your child of any age has ingested any unknown/known medication, chemical, or detergent; do not hesitate to call poison control immediately. The experts on the other end of the line can tell you within seconds what to do and if you need to worry. Believe me; I’ve been on the other end of that line seeking their expertise and guidance both as a mother and as a pediatrician.



About Dr. Arca (from her blog Confessions of a Dr. Mom)

I am a board certified pediatrician, mom of two (ages 5 and 8), writer, blogger, and child advocate. I write and speak about all things parenting and children’s health and feel that being active in social media is an excellent way to educate parents, connect with them, and advocate for children. I strive to bridge the gap between the pediatrician in me and the concerns we all have as parents. My philosophy is simple: trust your instincts, advocate for your children, and enjoy (mostly anyway) this roller coaster that is parenting. Parenting is not an exact science, I’m right there in the trenches with you…learning as I go. So, you’ll often find my candid parenting moments along the way. This blog is truly the place where my two worlds of doctor and mom collide. I’m a practicing pediatrician who juggles work and family just like any other parent. I have the privilege of appearing regularly on KCRA the local NBC news affiliate, and author a weekly Dr.Mom column in The Sacramento Bee.

Education and Training

  • Bachelor of Science from UCIrvine
  • M.D. from USC Keck School of Medicine
  • Pediatric Residency at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
  • Board Certified in Pediatrics
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Member of the AAP Council on Communication and Media

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