Every day, cautious parents take steps to keep their children safe â€” watching them closely as they play outside, strapping them securely into safety seats and making sure they get the right vitamins and nutrients.
Itâ€™s easy to sometimes forget about hidden dangers just within armâ€™s reach of many children.
Each year, children are poisoned by household and personal care products like medicines, vitamins, plants, lead and carbon monoxide.
This week â€”March 21 to 27 â€” is National Poison Prevention Week, a time local officials seek to educate people on the dangers..
â€œMany poisonings can be prevented if parents simply lock poisonous products out of childrenâ€™s reach,â€ said Mike Futrell, chairman of the Lincoln County SAFE KIDS Coalition.
â€œBut parents and caregivers should also be prepared in the event of a poisoning. Knowing the Poison Control Centerâ€™s national toll-free number â€” 1-800-222-1222 â€” could spare precious minutes that may mean the difference between life and death for a child.â€
More than 1.2 million unintentional poisonings among children ages 5 and younger were reported to United States poison control centers in 2002, and more than 110,000 children ages 14 and younger were treated in emergency rooms.
In Lincoln County, 199 patients were brought into Lincoln Medical Centerâ€™s emergency room because of poisonings in 2003, said Courtney Hillard, community relations coordinator at LMC.
In February 2004, 10 poisoning victims came to the emergency room, Hillard said.
Lincoln County EMS responded to about 30 incidents in 2003 involving ingestion of medication or other poison products, said Mike Keller, operations manager.
Fran Cagle, a registered nurse in LMCâ€™s emergency department, sees the strain accidental poisonings put on the victims, as well as the families. The invasive emergency procedures are difficult for children to deal with.
â€œEven if you see just two or three a year â€¦ thatâ€™s too many,â€ Cagle said. â€œThey (the children) donâ€™t understand why youâ€™re having to do what youâ€™re doing.â€
And family members often feel guilty for whatâ€™s happened to the child, Cagle said.
A common problem is when children ingest prescription medication accidentally, officials said.
Cagle said calls sometimes come into the ER from parents saying their children got into a grandparentâ€™s medication.
That can cause serious problems for children, Keller said, who are smaller and have faster metabolic rates than adults.
â€œThey get into medicine bottles of some pretty potent medicine for the elderly, and those drugs become a real problem in children,â€ Keller said. â€œThe effects of the drugs are just intensified because of the drug dosing levels for older adults versus children.â€
Items like household cleaners, cosmetics and even poisonous plants if ingested can be deadly to children. Often toddlers who are just able to walk independently and tend to wander away from caregivers are the ones who are most at risk, Cagle said.
By following simple at-home precautions, parents can keep their children safe and prevent possible poisonings. The SAFE KIDS Coalition recommends:
Â· Keep poisonous products locked out of reach.
Â· Know which household products are poisonous. Even mouthwash â€” if a large amount is swallowed â€” can be poisonous to a child.
Â· Never refer to medicine or vitamins as candy.
Â· Throw away or flush old medicines and other potential poisons.
Â· Beware of certain cosmetics and personal products. Keep after-shave, cologne, hair spray, shampoo and fingernail polish remover out of reach.
Â· Keep products in original containers so theyâ€™re not mistaken for something harmless.
Â· Buy child-resistant packaging.
Â· Keep poisonous plants out of reach. Learn which plants in and around the house are dangerous, and remove them or make them inaccessible to children.
Â· Install carbon monoxide detectors at home.
Â· If the home was built before 1978, have it tested for lead-based paint.
Â· Teach grandparents and relatives to take precautions.
If poisoning does occur, be prepared. The national toll-free hotline, 1-800-222-1222, will connect callers to the local poison control center.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that ipecac syrup no longer be used routinely as a home treatment strategy. Do not give the child anything without consulting the poison control center or a physician.More safety tips and information can be picked up at the Lincoln County Fire Marshalâ€™s office.by Alice Smith