Everyday Household Emergencies: Accidental Child Poisoning
While the lion’s share of emphasis in the emergency preparedness community is placed on handling natural, man-made and war/terrorism related disasters, let’s not forget about emergencies we could face any day of the week! The variety of household emergencies is extensive. The dangers are compounded exponentially with children in the home. However, just as with big-picture emergency preparedness, a few resources, prior planning, and good communications go a long way towards overcoming adversity. In this particular blog post we’d like to focus on accidental poisonings, how to prevent them and what to do in the event that a poisoning incident occurs.
Preventing Accidental Poisonings
In 2007 alone there were over forty thousand poisoning deaths in the United States. Of those, almost 75% were unintentional. This was second only to motor vehicle accidents as the cause of accidental death in 2007. In 2009, over 700,000 people visited emergency rooms with unintentional poisoning. What constitutes a poison? Any substance that does our bodies harm fits the bill. These substances can be ingested, inhaled, injected, or absorbed. Where are these poisons? Obvious are the common household and workplace chemical substances we use every day. The list of cleaning products alone is extensive and they do their intended job well, but most can be extremely dangerous when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through our skin. There are some things, however, you might not realize are poisonous in certain situations. Many foods we consume regularly can be harmful or even fatal if prepared incorrectly, eaten in excess, or the wrong varieties chosen. Nutmeg, for instance, in significant quantities can be hallucinogenic and rhubarb leaves contain a poison called oxalate. Mushrooms are a wonderful addition to many dishes, but there over 75 toxic varieties, 32 of which will kill you quite dead.
Surprisingly, fatalities among adult poisonings far outnumber those in children. However, the little ones simply don’t know any better and we need to look out for them. Did you know that 1 tablespoon of baking soda can cause seizures in a toddler and two tablespoons can be fatal? Remember that mouthwash by the sink that makes your breath minty fresh? It contains 15-22% alcohol and is usually sweet smelling and tasting. If your 25 lb. child ingests just one ounce, they would be legally drunk. Three to four ounces could cause toxic alcohol poisoning.
Tips in keeping our children safe:
- Secure solvents, cleaning fluids and other household and garden chemicals in a locked area.
- Throw away all old prescriptions. Between 2004 and 2005, over 70,000 children visited hospital emergency departments because of medication poisoning.
- Make sure your medications have child-resistant lids (nothing is 100% childproof – don’t be fooled!)
- Ensure that babysitters understand household emergency procedures and have ready access to your emergency communications plan and the number to the National Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.
- Emergency Communications Plan (wallet card and wall cards)
a. Emergency POC’s
b. Family Friends and Neighbors
d. Fire, Rescue and EMS
g. Poison Control Center (local and national)
- Educate yourself on the hidden poison dangers in your home and take precautions! As with every aspect of dealing with emergencies – knowledge and preparation is the ultimate key to successfully saving a life. Next week we examine accidental adult poisonings in Part II
FACTA NON VERBA…