RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many parents are surprised to find out that poisoning is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.
Children are naturally curious and swallow medications, household cleaners, paints and other products around the home. Mix that with the fact that harmful items are often scented and brightly colored, and you have a dangerous - but preventable - situation.
Accidental medicine poisoning sends a child under 6 to the emergency room every nine minutes. And every 12 days, a child dies.
So how can parents take steps to make your home safe for your children and grandchildren?
There are two essential components to successful poison prevention in children, known as primary and secondary efforts.
Primary prevention helps children avoid exposure to dangerous poisons in the first place:
- Lock up medications or cleaning solutions
- Read and follow label directions carefully when administering medicine to children
- Safely dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications.
- Make sure containers are closed
- Store items out of reach and sight of children
Secondary prevention aims to reduce the impact when children are exposed to poisonous substances. Medical experts advise parents and grandparents to save the National Capital Poison Center number in their contact list: 1-800-222-1222.
"Any time I see any child in the Bon Secours St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department with an ingestion of any kind, I always will remind parents about the National Capital Poison Center," said Frank Petruzella, M.D., medical director of the St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department. "They are able to quickly assess what was ingested, the risk to the child and they are able to determine whether a child needs to be seen in the emergency department."
Dr. Petruzella says the process can be quicker than calling a primary care provider, and can often prevent an unnecessary ambulance ride or emergency room visit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300 children are treated in emergency rooms around the country each day due to consuming a poisonous substance.
The two most important areas of the home where poisons are most likely to exist are the kitchen and bathroom.
"Kids are curious and find it natural to explore and taste things they discover," said Dr. Petruzella. "It's so important for parents to practice safe medicine storage by putting all medicine up and away, out of children's reach and sight."