Pediatric Health Talk: Home Safety and Preparedness

Be aware of household dangers

It’s no secret that children are curious by nature. There are many landmines in our homes that present dangers to children. Stairs, electrical outlets, stoves to name a few, but poisoning from household items is a major risk.

Prevention Services Director, Amanda Oakes, of Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services says, “We now live in an era where it is not good practice to share and/or keep unwanted, unused, expired medications in your home. Growing up it was not uncommon for your parents to keep the left-over medications in case you need them later on or for another family member who suffers with an illness or injury. Not only is it not safe to keep and share medications, it is illegal. The message is just because a medication was safe for you at the time it was prescribed doesn’t mean it is safe for you now or for someone else. We encourage parents to have conversations with their children about why it is not safe to take someone else’s medication.”

The CDC states that, “every day over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die as a result of being poisoned.” Reports to the U.S. Poison Controls Centers says children under the age of six account for nearly half of the 2.4 million people exposed to poisonous substances each year. To break it down further, the CDC shares, every 13 seconds, a U.S. poison control center receives a possible poisoning call. More than ninety percent of these exposures are home related.
Many everyday household items can be the culprit of poisoning—medicines and household cleaners. One of the most common ways children are poisoned is through incorrect medicine dosing or accidental ingestion. There are ways to “poison proof” your home to keep children safe.

First, keep toxic items and medicines locked away. Keep cleaning products including detergent pods in original packaging out of sight and out of reach of children.
With medicine, read the dosage directions carefully. Also, read all warnings, and don’t hesitate to contact you pediatrician or pharmacist with any questions.

Safely discard all unused prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications as well supplements and vitamins by taking them to a local take-back program or search for national drug take-back events. Oakes adds, “There are three ways to safely dispose mediations: disposal kits, permanent drop boxed and local RX Take Back Events (October/April.) Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services in partnership with Regional Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention provide free medication lockboxes and disposal kit, contact 434.799. 0456 Ext. 3810 to schedule a time to pick up a box or disposal kit.”

And finally, always keep the nationwide poison control number, 1-800-222-1222, on hand or programmed into your phone. The number is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call if you suspect your child has been poisoned but is alert and awake. If you child has collapsed or is unresponsive call 9-1-1.

There are other potential hazards lurking around the house. Children’s curiosity tends to lead them to put things in their mouths. Be sure all batteries are safely secured out of a child’s reach. Keep remote controls, children’s toys, and anything that operates on batteries away from children.

If you live in an older home inspect for lead paint. A child can suffer lead poisoning by ingesting paint flakes or lead dust. Carbon monoxide, an odorless, yet deadly gas can also be a danger if gas appliances or wood burning stoves are not properly ventilated. Install carbon monoxide detectors and routinely check them.

Preparing for an emergency

No one wants to prepare for an emergency, but the threat of a weather event, a fire, or a national emergency is very well. Being prepared can keep your family safe.

It’s crucial to install smoke detectors and to make sure the batteries are healthy. You should invest in a fire extinguisher and monitor it to make sure it’s working properly and up to code. An evacuation plan should be in place along with an emergency kit. Each member of the family should have an I.C.E. (in case of emergency) card.

Emergencies can be confusing for children. It’s a good idea to teach them how to stay safe and be prepared in any type of disaster. Teach your children how, and when, to call 9-1-1 along with the proper information to give the operator.

It’s also important to familiarize yourself with your children’s daycare or school’s emergency and evacuation plans. The whole family needs to be aware of the procedures. Your children need to be reminded of these plans regularly.

The most important thing you can do for your children in a time of emergency is to remain calm. Being prepared should you face an emergency goes a long way to remaining calm.