I was recently prescribed some analgesics for a small day procedure. That afternoon, when I got home, I placed the packet of meds on my dresser and later found my daughter sitting on the floor inspecting the packet. My heart stopped! This careless mistake could have had devastating consequences.
Unfortunately, poisoning data in South Africa is lacking. One study dating back to 2012 found that the most common cause of accidental poisoning in children in South Africa is pesticides. However, the list of potential poisons throughout our homes is extensive.
The most common poisons in your home
- Prescribed or over-the-counter medications
- Household cleaners and disinfectants
- Cosmetics and toiletries
- Insect and rodent repellants
- Weed killers and other outdoor chemicals
- Swimming pool chemicals
- Flea and tick shampoos and other products for pets
Home safety: how to prevent accidental poisoning in children
I have put together a list of some useful tips to prevent accidental poisoning at home. Some of them may seem fairly obvious but – as I’ve recently experienced – it is easy to forget.
- Keep all potential household and other hazards in their original containers. DO NOT transfer into coke bottles or Tupperware.
- Make sure seals of potential hazards are tight and secure before locking away. Please note that child-resistant packaging of medications is NOT childproof.
- Keep potential hazards locked away in the highest cupboard with a childproof lock. The cupboard should even be high for you, as little minds can get quite creative with boxes and stools and climb up on to countertops.
- Keep potential hazards out of reach of children when in use and never leave bottles or buckets unattended.
- Never call medicine sweets or candy. This is a common mistake parents make in order to get their kids to take medicine when sick. This could lead to a child one day consuming an entire bottle of ‘sweets’.
- Never leave your handbag lying around and be extra cautious when you have visitors over as many people keep painkillers in their bags.
- Alcohol is often overlooked and is very dangerous to your little ones if consumed in excess. Keep alcohol out of reach of children, especially when hosting parties.
- Any kind of battery can be dangerous if leaking or ingested. Keep remote controls and other battery containing devices away from children.
- If you are unsure about whether or not a household item is hazardous, assume it is and keep it locked away. Things that seem harmless are most often extremely dangerous.
- Most importantly: TEACH your children about the potential dangers!
It may be a good idea to identify what potential hazards you have in your home. Do a check of every room in the house – including your garage – and make sure your home is safe.
Balme, K., Roberts, J.C., Glasstone, M., Curling, L. & Mann, M.D. (2012) The changing trends of childhood poisoning at a tertiarychildren’s hospital in South Africa. South African Medical Journal. [Online] 102 (3), pp. 142-146. Available from: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0256-95742012000300023&lng=en&tlng=en [Accessed 8 August 2018].
Veale, D.J.H., Wium, C.A. & Müller, G.J. (2012) Toxicovigilance I: A survey of acute poisoning in South Africa based on Tygerberg Poison Information Centre data. South African Medical Journal. [Online] 103 (5), pp. 293-297. Available from: http://www.samj.org.za/index.php/samj/article/view/6647/5054 [Accessed 8 August 2018].
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