Poison Prevention

Guest Post: Keeping Kids Safe


 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.

News, Poison Prevention

Presidential Proclamation — National Poison Prevention Week, 2014

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2014

Presidential Proclamation — National Poison Prevention Week, 2014


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Over the past four decades, America has seen a steep decline in childhood deaths from accidental poisonings — thanks in part to improved safety measures and increased public awareness. During National Poison Prevention Week, we do our part to remain vigilant, ask our loved ones to use common-sense precautions, and learn about the potentially life-saving action we can take in case of emergency.

While we have made great strides, unintentional poisoning still takes the lives of about 30 American children every year and sends tens of thousands to the hospital. Because the vast majority of these accidents occur in the home, it is essential for parents and caregivers to keep potentially harmful products — including cleaning supplies and medication — out of their children’s reach and sight. If you ever suspect a child, family member, or anyone has been poisoned, quick action may prevent serious injury or death. You should immediately call the toll-free Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.

Earlier this year, I signed the Poison Center Network Act, which supports the hotline, a poison prevention grant program, and an awareness campaign. As my Administration promotes safe practices across our country, each of us can make our homes and communities more secure. To safeguard against carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, every American should have heating systems inspected each year and install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. And because prescription drug overdose remains the most common cause of fatal poisoning, we must properly store and dispose of medications. I encourage Americans to visit www.DEAdiversion.USDOJ.gov to read about safe prescription drug disposal and learn how to participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26. For information on preventing accidents and helping victims of poisoning, go to PoisonHelp.HRSA.gov.

To encourage Americans to learn more about the dangers of accidental poisonings and to take appropriate preventative measures, the Congress, by joint resolution approved September 26, 1961, as amended (75 Stat. 681) has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating the third week of March each year as “National Poison Prevention Week.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim March 16 through March 22, 2014, as National Poison Prevention Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week by taking actions to protect their families from hazardous household materials and misuse of prescription medicines.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Poison Prevention

Have a “Blast” This Fourth of July by Staying Poison Safe

Who doesn’t love the Fourth of July? Fireworks, cookouts, maybe even the day off work! It can feel like a big party, but in the midst of all the fun, do take some basic precautions, too, to keep yourself and your family and friends safe. 

“Every year around the Fourth of July holiday, people are burned or injured by fireworks. However, fireworks are a poisoning hazard, as well,” says Rose Ann Soloway of the National Capitol Poison Center. “If swallowed by children, adults or pets, the chemicals in fireworks can make them sick.” Continue reading

Poison Prevention

Generator and Carbon Monoxide Safety

The powerful storm that raged through the Midwest and the East Coast last week caused multiple injuries and deaths. Millions are without power and some will turn to generators to provide electricity.  Poison centers issue strong words of caution to people who use generators.  They are great devices for keeping a refrigerator running, but used improperly can cause illness and death.

Generators and other fuel-burning appliances emit carbon monoxide, which is called the “silent killer.”  You can’t smell it or see it, and it may not cause any more severe symptoms than a headache.

Continue reading

Poison Prevention

Poison Centers Issue New Warning about Single-Use Laundry Detergent Packets

If you use highly concentrated liquid laundry detergent that comes in small packets, you’ll want to heed this warning from the experts at America’s 57 poison centers: Always keep them locked up high and out of the reach of kids!

Image – Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center

The new individual packets of highly concentrated, one-time-use laundry detergents are causing serious health problems in some children who have been exposed to them.  For example, some children who have bitten into the packets and swallowed some of the liquid have experienced profuse vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness, wheezing and coughing.  Some have had trouble breathing and have had to be hospitalized and placed on ventilators.  Some children who got the product into their eyes have experienced severe eye irritation and corneal abrasions.  Continue reading