Seemingly harmless items that could be hazardous to your health may be lurking under your kitchen sink, in a closet or around the bathroom. When you have a newborn, infant or toddler around the house, keeping common household hazards out of reach is even more important to prevent poisoning. From child locks to baby gates, here's what you need to know to keep your family safe.
Keep medicine out of reach
It's normal to have vitamins and prescription medications lying around the house as part of your overall health routine, but a small dose of adult medication can be poisonous to toddlers. Start by storing prescription and nonprescription medications out of sight from curious kids.
"It's a good habit to be aware of what medicine is in your home and the homes of other potential caregivers," said Dr. Nandita Kuruvilla, with Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. "Even things like mouthwash that seem harmless can be extremely dangerous if children ingest it."
Storing medicine in high cabinets might not be enough, as children might climb up onto toilets and countertops to reach your medicine cabinet. If possible, a locked cabinet is best. Take care to keep purses and other bags that may contain potentially poisonous items away from kids. Additionally, always keep medicine in its original container, and don't rely on tamper-resistant or childproof packaging to keep your family safe.
"Try not to dose or administer medicine in the dark, which can lead to errors," said Dr. Kuruvilla. "And avoid telling your child that her medicine tastes good, like candy."
Remember that any medicine can be dangerous and potentially cause a trip to the ER if taken by the wrong person or at the wrong dose. Always make sure all the members of your family follow the rules when it comes to taking and storing medications.
Watch out for cleaning supplies
When storing cleaning supplies, resist the urge to keep items like aerosol sprays, dishwasher soap and other items under the kitchen sink. Store hazardous substances out of reach in high cabinets, and if you're using an easily accessible area to store hazardous substances, always use cabinet locks. Additionally, don't use rat poison or other poisonous powders in your home, and avoid spraying insect sprays on furniture or mattresses.
"Avoid using storage containers that could be mistaken for food to hold cleaning products,"said Dr. Kuruvilla. "And try not to leave in-use cleaning products unattended."
When it comes to your garage, use the same diligence that you would inside the house. Keep gardening and automotive supplies in a securely locked area, and follow package instructions for storage conditions, including temperature.
Make sure you keep the Antifreeze (Ethylene glycol) out of reach. It's a sweet tasting liquid that both children and pets can easily ingest. Even small amounts of Antifreeze can cause serious medical issues and even coma or death.
Make alcohol off limits
If you keep alcohol in your home, keep it in a locked liquor cabinet away from children. Having a party? Don't leave glasses with alcoholic beverages within reach of kids, and ask your guests to do the same.
"Many brands of store-bought mouthwash contain substantial amounts of alcohol that can be harmful to toddlers if ingested," said Dr. Kuruvilla. "Take care with other items like vanilla extract that also contain alcohol and smell good enough to drink."
Test for lead paint
If you have an older home, your paint could contain lead. Call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) for more information on how to test paint for lead. Additionally, older furniture and toys may contain lead. Don't use highchairs, bassinets, cribs, toy chests or painted toys made before 1978 to reduce your risk of lead poisoning. Sign up for toy recall notifications from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to stay up to date.
Many common household items that seem harmless may be dangerous, so keep an eye out for:
- Hair dye
- Nail and shoe polish
- Nail polish remover
- House and garden plants
- Button cell batteries
Always be prepared
If you have a newborn, or a baby on the way, have the tools to keep your baby safe, including learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, making a first-aid kit, installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and having the following numbers handy in case of an emergency:
- The Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222)
- Your pediatrician
- Emergency contact numbers, work and cell
- Numbers of neighbors or relatives
- Your closest pediatric ER
A safe, kid-friendly home
Your home should be a safe place for your entire family, but having a completely childproof home may be difficult. Close and lock rooms that have not been properly childproofed, and consider doorknob covers and child locks for exterior doorknobs as well.
"Check your childproofing efforts by getting down on your hands and knees to see rooms from your child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and take note of potentially dangerous items," said Dr. Kuruvilla. "How much you choose to childproof your home is up to you, but keeping a close eye on kids is the best way to protect them from injuries."
Know your closest pediatric ER before emergencies strike