Preventing Poisoning in the Home

Preventing Poisoning in the Home

How to Protect Your Child
By Kristen Mascarenhas, MD/MPH candidate at University of Miami With Wendy Stephan, PhD, Julie Belkowitz, MD, MPH, Lyse Deus and Oneith Cadiz, MD

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 2 million ingestions of potentially toxic substances are reported to poison control centers in the U.S. every year. Many of these exposures involve children under the age of 19.

There are many items in homes that can be toxic to kids including medications, cleaning products, alcohol, plants and even cosmetics. Magnets, button batteries and laundry packets are other easily accessed items that can be dangerous if ingested by young children. If your child swallows one of these, they’ll need to get help quickly.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the types of poisoning reported in children and adolescents. There have been more reported poisonings in children from cleaning products, disinfectants, bleach and hand sanitizer. Families can also prevent these poisonings by using only one cleaner at a time to avoid potentially dangerous reactions between cleaning products. There has also been a notable increase in intentional self-harm, especially in teenage girls. Securing medications, including over-the-counter products, is critical for keeping teens safe.

Florida’s Poison Control Centers continue to receive calls about dietary supplements. Are you or family members taking melatonin, vitamin D, and/or vitamin C to boost your immune system? Be careful, because these supplements can be harmful when not taken at the recommended dose. Please check with your doctor before taking supplements and make sure to read the packaging closely and take supplements only as directed.

Another issue related to poisoning in South Florida has been the legalization of medical cannabis edibles, which has led to more of these products being available in homes with children. In 2022, Florida Poison Centers logged 670 exposures to these products, compared to only 264 two years prior. If someone in your family is using medical cannabis, make sure to keep it out of reach of children at all times. If anyone is experiencing uncomfortable effects from these medications or has questions about their safety, call 1-800-222-1222.

To avoid poisoning, make sure to follow these steps below:
* Keep all poisonous substances up and away, out of reach of children. You can use locks on high cabinets to help make extra sure kids can’t get to the dangerous items in your home.
* Make sure items such as medications and household cleaners are always in their original, labeled containers.
* Medications should always be stored in childproof containers. Remember that visitors to your home might keep medications or other dangerous items in purses or bags, so make sure those are out of kids’ reach too.

What should you do if your child does get exposed to a poison in your home?
* Poison control centers are available 24/7 to help for emergencies involving poisons/medication mistakes.
* A quick call to poison control (1-800-222-1222) can save a family trip to the emergency department.
* Calls are fully confidential — no one gets in trouble for calling poison control!
For more information about how to keep your child safe from poisonings in the home, contact the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami, a program supported by The Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080. or