Health Feature Articles
Hazardous Look-A-Likes in a Child’s World
Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S., Northwest Regional Director, University of Missouri Extension
Updated by Gail Carlson, MU Health Education Specialist - 3/7/03
Updated by Greta Hopke, RD and Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD, Associate State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri Extension - 3/8/05
Young children are known to be very curious and active. Can you think of the last time you were with a kid and you turned your back or went into another room to return in just 2 minutes to find the child was somewhere else! Young children love to imitate, explore, and try new things. While this is a great way for them to learn, this curious instinct can be very dangerous in the wrong situation.
"Children Act Fast…So do Poisons!" is the theme of
National Poison Prevention Week, March 20 to 26. This is
a special week designated to increase awareness of the
dangers of accidental poisoning. According to the Poison
Prevention Week Council, approximately 1 million phone
calls are placed each year to the Poison Control Centers
by adults seeking help when a child has swallowed or
come into contact with a harmful substance. About 30
of the children who ingest such substances die each year.
Kids connect color, shapes, texture, and flavors with
foods. Whether it is medicine or scented crayons or
markers, it can be difficult for them to separate safe
from unsafe when it smells like food. Take a look in
your cleaning supplies for "food scented" items. No,
they are not to eat, but are pleasant to smell and very
similar to the smell of some foods.
There are numerous poison look-a-likes in our homes.
If the label from the product were removed and put into
containers, could you pick out what was safe and what
was not? Just think about some of these poison
- Cinnamon red hots and cold medicine
- Water and alcohol
- Candy and antacid
- Cake frosting in a tube and first aid cream
- Vitamins and cake decorations
- Dishwashing soap granules and NerdsŪ candy
- Tuna and cat food
- Jelly and sunscreen
- Lettuce or spinach and some green house plants
- Corn oil and dish soap
As you can see, this is a fairly common list of things we keep in our kitchens, bathrooms, and cleaning closets. Move to a garage, farm machine shed, or storage area and you'll likely discover other poison look-a-likes.
To poison proof, move containers out of sight to high
shelves or closets, away from foods where they might be
mistaken for a "safe" food. Medicines can be put into
larger containers on a high shelf. If possible, keep
these products in a locked cabinet. Also, keep items in
their original containers with the label on. Children
associate cups, bottles, or other containers with food
and drink and it can be confusing to all of us if they
are not in the original container!
When taking medicine or nutritional supplements it is important to follow the directions presented on the label. Never refer to medicine or supplements as "candy."
When using a cleaning product, always follow the directions on the label and keep the child and product in your sight. When reading the label, look for these key words:
CAUTION or WARNING, this indicates a mild hazard. In event of accidental exposure, if appropriate first aid is given, the product will not likely cause permanent damage. Most detergents, disinfectants, and all-purpose cleaners fit into this category.
DANGER indicates that a greater precaution
should be taken. In the event of accidental exposure,
this product could cause long-term damage. Products with
this keyword typically are intended for tough jobs, such
as oven cleaners, drain openers, or products which are
POISON is the strongest indication of hazard.
In the event of accidental exposure, this product could
cause severe medical damages. This term rarely appears
on household cleaning products, but may be found on car
care products and anti-freeze.
When we think of kids and poison, we often imagine
the child swallowing the item, however, smelling or
touching a substance can also be harmful. In case of a
poison accident, keep the Poison Control Center number
posted in the phonebook or on the refrigerator. The
number, 1-(800) 222-1222, provides everyone in
the U.S. with free access - 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week - to their regional poison center. When calling the
Poison Control Center, be sure to have the following
information: the child's age and weight, any health or
medical conditions, the substance involved, whether they
smelled, swallowed, or touched the product, if any first
aid has been given, and if the child has vomited.
To keep "quick" and curious kids safe, become a kid again. Get down on your hands and knees. What can you find or get into? Are there things that need to be moved? If so, do it now and keep the kids safe.
Last Updated 05/05/2009