Our homes may be our sanctuaries, but they also are where 90 percent of accidental poisonings occur. Houses are not poison-proofed, and people make mistakes.
The bathroom and kitchen are typically the most dangerous rooms in the house. Think about the items you keep under your kitchen sink: dishwasher detergent, bleach, cleaning fluids, oven cleaner, maybe even bug spray and drain cleaner.
Now think about the items in your bathroom: mouthwash, hair-care products, contact lens solution and bathtub and toilet bowl cleaners. Children can be fooled into swallowing these products because they may smell like things that are good to eat, such as mint or lemon. That's why it is so critical to store these safely out of the reach of children. A young child who ingests one of those products could become seriously ill—or worse.
But there's another potential poisoning hazard you may not be aware of: medications. Leaving bottles of pills on your nightstand or sitting out on the kitchen counter is a big no-no.
To a child, pills can look like candy, and that makes them very tempting.
Never assume that childproof caps are sufficient to deter curious youngsters.
What you can do to poison-proof your home
- Move possibly poisonous products, including medicines, to high shelves. If you can't move them, install latches or locks on cabinet doors or drawers where you store these items.
- Lock the liquor cabinet.
- Keep everything in original containers, with lids tightly closed at all times.
What you can do to avoid garage and basement hazards
The garage often contains some of the most poisonous household products, like lighter fluid, gasoline, antifreeze and turpentine. Store these in a locked box. Every time you use something from the box, close it and lock it, and be very conscientious about it.
Always store dangerous substances in their original containers. If you pour antifreeze into an old plastic bottle, its bright green color eerily resembles a tasty sports beverage, and a child might want to drink it.
To further reduce poisoning risks outdoors and in storage areas, make these practices part of your routine:
- Clean up spills and leaks immediately so pets don't inadvertently lap up something toxic.
- Read and follow manufacturer's instructions on pesticides, solvents and adhesives to avoid exposure to potentially toxic fumes.
- Put spray paints under lock and key, since risk-taking tweens and teens may inhale them to get high.
What you can do to avert accidental overdoses
Protect against potentially dangerous medication mistakes. For instance, taking multiple medications every day compounds your risk of an accidental overdose. Keep meds in their original bottles, rather than compartmentalized pill containers. That way, you always know what you're taking.
Everyone in the household should have separate areas for medications to avoid potential mix-ups.
Develop a routine when taking your medications. Turn on the light, put on glasses and look at each bottle before removing pills. Line up the bottles in the order you take the drugs. After you take each one, mark it off on a calendar or list so you know you took the right ones at the right time.
If you worry you may have accidentally taken too much of or the wrong medication, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800) 222-1222. When in doubt, call anyway.