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Keeping Kids Safe From the Unsuspecting Poisons in Your Home

Household hazards that may surprise you

Melissa Hardage, 32, doesn’t take any chances. She describes her daughters — ages 3 and 1— as incredibly inquisitive. “So my husband and I prevent easy access to household cleaning products and medications by placing them out of reach,” the Dallas mom says.  

It’s a no-brainer. Even before our babies became crawlers, most of us probably put child safely locks on the cabinets where the household cleaners and medications in our homes live. But new statistics show that, that might not be enough.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 300 children, nearly half under the age of 6, treated in emergency rooms each day as a result of poisoning injuries, typically from ingestion.

During a regular 10-hour shift, Dr. Audry McCreight, a pediatric emergency room doctor at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, says she sees at least one poisoning injury from ingestion. “The types of accidental poisonings I see range from medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen to detergent pods, nail polish remover and extremely toxic button batteries from watches,” she says.


“Most ingestions by toddlers are medicine, both over the counter and prescription,” says Dana Walraven, community health outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County coordinator. So it’s no surprise that medications still top the list of household hazards for kids. The hard-to-open bottles weren’t designed to prevent a child from getting in but simply slow him down.
And in the four years between 2011 and 2015, the number of kids exposed to essential oils doubled. Some kids ingested the aromatic liquids used to treat everything from allergies to depression; others were dosed incorrectly — both of which caused chemical burns, breathing problems and more.
Experts recommend storing all medicines (including essential oils) in their original bottles, and keeping them locked in top cabinets that are completely out of sight from curious kiddos. Also, never use a medicine bottle as a rattle or other distraction for little ones. And never ever tell a child taking medicine that it’s candy. Explain to kids that despite the fruity taste, what they are taking is medication to help them heal.

Detergent pods

Nearly 12,000 children age 5 and younger were exposed to detergent pods last year. Consuming a detergent pod can cause coughing, breathing difficulty and possibly death. “The detergent washes away the protein in the lungs that keeps them inflated,” explains McCreight.
Experts recommend ditching the pods until all children in the house are school age or older. If you just can’t do without, put them up high and in a container that locks. And avoid putting the pods in the same type of containers where you store cereal and baking needs.

Vape paraphernalia and e-cigarettes

The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes is so highly concentrated that even a tiny sip might cause a child’s heart to race or make them vomit or sweat. And vape liquid is often scented or flavored, making it appealing to kids.
Experts recommend never using e-cigarettes or vaping around kids, keeping materials in a locked box at the top of a high cabinet and disposing of used components according to the manufacturer’s instructions so children don’t fish them out of the kitchen trash.

Beauty products

Cosmetics and personal care products contain loads of chemicals, may smell nice and are therefore dangerous in a little one’s hands.
Experts recommend never storing lotions, creams or sprays in the refrigerator. They might easily be mistaken for juice or yogurt, especially by a child who can’t read. And don’t let your little one play in your makeup bag or purse.