Gwenn Christianson, RN, MSN, CSPIChristianson, Gwenn, RN. MSN.14

Gwenn is a registered nurse and has worked at the Indiana Poison Center (IPC) for 26 years.  She is also a Certified  Specialist in Poison Information (CSPI).  Prior to working at IPC, Gwenn worked in Adult Critical Care and in a surgical ward at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, IN for a total of 7 years. Gwenn feels that she found her true area of interest in the field of toxicology as she can work directly with patients, nearly all of whom recover uneventfully.  Still, there are always new challenges, so the work is never less than stimulating.  In addition to her work at the Indiana Poison Center, Gwenn has been active in the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) for 24 years, working with the SPI Committee, and serving on the Board of Directors, among other activities.

Gwenn is the mom of 5 children, the youngest of whom just graduated from high school.  Next year she’ll have 3 kids in college! She is also the proud grandmother of a 6 year old boy whose frequent visits keep her hopping.  In her spare time Gwenn likes to read, garden, sew and volunteer at her church.


You’re a careful parent. You use Child Resistant Caps (CRCs) on all of your medication bottles. You have those pesky plastic “ thingamajigs” on all of your bottom cabinets, which keep you – and hopefully your 2 year old – from accessing your lower cupboards. You even use baby gates to keep your child restricted to the “baby safe” rooms, out of the kitchen and laundry areas. Surely a poison exposure won’t happen in your home, right?

Not necessarily! Toddlers and preschoolers are particularly clever and agile little beings. They watch you like a hawk, seeing where you are “hiding” things, and plotting ways to reach those very items. Despite how it sounds, they’re really not devious little monsters – they are just curious, intelligent little people, eager to explore the world and to find out all about the fascinating things Mom, Dad, and other grown-ups use. Sometimes that curiosity involves tasting and eating new and inviting items.

How can you best make your home and environment Poison Safe? Follow these tips –

  1. Remember – NOTHING is POISON PROOF. Be constantly vigilant – stay on watch at all times – and if a poison exposure occurs, call your regional poison center right away at 1-800-222-1222.
  2. Keep all medications in a locked tackle box. Lock it with a combination lock or wear the key around your neck. Then, even if your child climbs up and gets the box down, he or she won’t be able to open the box and get the medications out.
  3. Do not use daily pill minders. These are nothing more than a handy multiple poison packaging device for two year olds, allowing them to take up to 7 doses of each medication at one time. Provide guests with a lock box for their medications.
  4. Lock up purses, backpacks, suitcases, and similar items. Put such items into a locked room and keep them there – and keep the kids out. These “big kid belongings” are fascinating for little ones, and they like nothing more than to go rummaging through them.
  5. Limit the number of household cleaning items you purchase. Can one multipurpose household cleaner do the job of 3 or 4 room-specific cleaners? That makes 2-3 less things for your child to encounter! Get the smallest size possible, use it all up, and throw it away in the outside trash – then the children won’t encounter the open bottle in storage. This is especially important for caustic products that can cause life-threatening burns, such as toilet bowl cleaners and drain cleaners. (No, it is not as cost-effective, but it is much safer – and which is more important?)
  6. Do not rely on putting items up high and out of reach to ensure safety. Kids climb! Kids pull out drawers and climb up on counters and cabinets, bookshelves and TV units. They stack their miniature chairs on their little tables and build towering edifices to reach the top of the refrigerator or the top shelf in the linen closet. While putting things up high may slow them down, it doesn’t stop a determined child from reaching what they want to find.

If the unexpected does occur, remember that this is NOT a reflection on your worthiness as a parent. Accidents happen! Collect your child and the product, grab the phone, and call your regional poison center at 1-800-222-1222. The friendly experts there are ready to help you assess the situation and determine what needs to be done. You will get the proper directions, your child will get the proper care, and you can learn more about how to make your home safe and prevent further exposures.

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