You may think that your home is the safest place that your child could possibly be. But is there a bottle of perfume on your bedroom dressing table? Do you have a poinsettia in the living room? If so, your child could become one of more than 40,000 under-fives, who are taken to hospital each year needing treatment for accidental poisoning!
Do you really know which substances in your home are poisonous? Do you know how to keep them safely? And, do you know what to do if the worst should happen?
Cutting the risk
Obviously, the best thing you can do in terms of poisoning is to put any potential ‘hazards’ well out of reach. But have a look at the most common substances which are taken by accident..
- Essential oils
- Oral contraceptives
- White spirit
Perfume and aftershave are on the list because they contain alcohol, which can be very dangerous to small children, even in negligible amounts. If a lot is swallowed, the blood sugar levels fall, which can lead to irreversible brain damage and even death. (It’s for this reason that your drinks cabinet should always remain locked).
Out of reach
Medicines and household chemicals can look like sweets and drinks to small children, so these should be kept out of sight to remove temptation, and out of reach to add a practical safety barrier. Over the last few years, liquid detergent tablets have become a particular source of danger to young children, probably because they often resemble sweets. With all household chemicals, locked away is safest of all.
Common mistakes include keeping tablets ‘handy’ by the bed; leaving toilet cleaner in the bathroom ‘for the next time’, and standing paint brushes in jam jars containing turpentine or white spirit, both of which are particularly dangerous for children.
Don’t keep medicines in the fridge unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you to. It’s one of the easiest places for toddlers to get in to and, as far as they’re concerned, it’s for storing food. If your medicine says ‘keep cool’, it means at room temperature, not fridge temperature. Most tablets are now supplied in bottles with child-resistant tops, but some are supplied in blister packs, which children often find easy to open.
And, remember! Never ever tell kids that tablets are ‘like sweets’!
Readily available from DIY department and baby equipment shops, these catches come in all shapes and sizes: from those, which simply clip over the door handles on the outside, to those which are screwed inside doors and drawers so they don’t spoil the look of furniture. Don’t put too much faith in them, though! All children will eventually learn how to use them – some sooner than others! And never rely on them for storing medicines or household chemicals.
What to do if the worst happens
Hopefully your child will never be poisoned, but knowing what to do could save you both a lot of distress…
- Remove anything still in the mouth
- Gently give one beaker of milk or water. This dilutes any poison and takes away any nasty taste. Don’t give if a drink if the mouth and/or lips are badly burned and NEVER give salt and water as this could be dangerous
- If your child is being sick, hold him bent forward to avoid choking
- Telephone your doctor or go to A&E as soon as possible, even if your child seems fine. Have the container ready so that the healthcare practitioner can read the contents immediately
- If your child has been sick, take a sample of the vomit too. Different poisons need different treatments
- Corrosive substances, such as dishwasher detergents or oven cleaner, can cause the greatest damage to your child’s airway and may stop them breathing. In the event of this happening, dial 999 immediately
- Stay calm and keep your child calm