Seasonal Changes Increase Children's Risk for Poisoning

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US Poison Control Centers report that changes to environment and routine -- such as cooler temperatures, new school schedules and holiday celebrations -- can dramatically increase children's risk for accidental poisonings. Here are some tips to help parents eliminate common household dangers.

Fall is an exciting and busy time for families. Cooler temperatures, new school schedules and holiday celebrations all mark the coming season. But US Poison Control Centers report that these changes to environment and routine actually increase the risk of accidental poisonings in children! Happily, some simple precautions and an increased awareness of hidden hazards can help keep little ones safe from harm during these busy months.

Cough and cold medicines – a major culprit

Medications are most prevalent in homes during the cough, cold and flu season. If misused, both prescription dugs and over-the-counter medications contain enough active ingredients to be very harmful to children – and adults. Care should always be taken when handling, dispensing and storing any medication. Poisoning symptoms can include agitation, lethargy, affected blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm – or worse!

Protect children who might be tempted by sweet flavored syrups and colorful candy-like pills by securing medications out of reach at all times, even at night, and ask houseguests to do the same. Always adhere to dosage directions and avoid combining products with the same ingredients, such as Acetaminophen. Remember it’s always best to check with a pharmacist before combining any drugs – whether prescription or over-the-counter.

Choose hi-tech thermometers

Surprise – US Poison Control Centers do not consider the mercury in a glass thermometer a poisoning risk. Still, glass thermometers pose safety hazards including cuts and possible ingestion of glass. Why worry? Today’s digital thermometers are very accurate and much safer than glass – ask your pediatrician to recommend one. But don’t discard either broken or whole glass thermometers in the trash - mercury is considered to be an environmental hazard. Contact your local waste management offices for hazardous material disposal information.

Take care with car care products

Even small amounts of automotive winterizing and antifreeze products can cause severe reactions and illness if swallowed. These products often are randomly stored in the garage, and to make matters worse, they’re sweet to the taste. Protect kids and pets by keeping all antifreeze products secured well out of reach, by quickly cleaning any spills or leaks, and by rinsing used bottles and replacing safety caps before disposal.

Don’t slip up when using de-icers

Sidewalk salt and other de-icers are dangerous to children if ingested. Make sure these items are safety stored and that children do not eat the snow surrounding de-iced sidewalks and driveways.

Reduce lurking hazards

Have fireplaces and furnaces professionally inspected prior to lighting to help prevent both fires and carbon monoxide poisoning – and replace batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Remember that space heaters are known causes for carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires, never leave these unattended or operating overnight.

Know who to call!

If poisoning is suspected, contact Poison Control immediately… and be sure to have the 24-Hour Poison Control Hotline number posted by all phones: 1-800-222-1222

Krista Fabregas founded KidSmartLiving in 1999 to help busy parents create family-friendly homes and lifestyles. Visit KidSmartLiving online at for kid-friendly home ideas and projects, child safety information and products dedicated to worry-free living.

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Krista Fabregas