Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Poisons that lurk at home

11 June 2012, 08:57

 If you have children or pets, you've probably looked around your house to see what potential hazards you need to lock up or move, like the cleaning products under the sink. But it's easy to overlook something a child might find appealing.

That windshield washer fluid in the garage might look like a big jug of blue fruit drink to a child. Medication that's red and round can look a lot like a candy to a youngster.

No home can be 100% safe, but you can take steps to protect your family from the most serious threats in your home.

"You have to anticipate what kids might do," said Rose Ann Soloway, a clinical toxicologist with the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, DC. "They're smart and fast, and they like to imitate us."

What's lurking in your home

"I compare children getting into medicines and poisons to a young child rolling over for the first time and falling off a bed or couch," Soloway said. "How often do you hear parents say, 'I didn't know he could do that' when a child rolls over for the first time? While it's not possible to be with a child 24 hours a day, it's important that the things that can really hurt them have as many barriers as possible. Keep anything dangerous locked up and out of reach. Children rely on us to provide a safe environment."

So what are the biggest problems that could be lurking in your home?

"The most dangerous are probably medications," said Dr Jennifer Lowry, a medical toxicologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City. "Parents don't always put them away. Grandparents don't always remember that they could be an issue. Their medications may be in pill boxes that are easy to open. And, older adults are on more medications that can be toxic to children."

Soloway said that the medications of greatest concern when taken by those who don't need them are blood pressure and heart medications, as well as narcotic medications to relieve pain. It's also not always children who are an issue with medications. Poison control centres get lots of calls from older adults who've mixed up their medications.

But even pills people might think are safe can be an issue if the dose is large enough.

Vitamins can be dangerous too

"Everything can be a poison depending on the dose," said Lowry. People might not be concerned about leaving vitamins accessible, but iron can be extremely toxic, she noted.

Soloway said that personal care products also prompt a lot of calls to poison control centres. "The ones we worry about are those with alcohol in them," she said. "Children can get alcohol poisoning from mouthwash. Children see adults putting it in their mouths, so why wouldn't they? But, they don't get the swish-and-spit part."

Then there are pesticides, which can be dangerous if they're swallowed, breathed in or gotten on the skin. "It's so important to understand that these products are intended to kill an organism," Soloway noted.

Products called hydrocarbons, such as gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid and lamp oil, are also a concern. Though they generally pass through the digestive system without causing too much damage, they can get into the lungs, causing a serious condition called aspiration pneumonia, if a child swallows one of the products and then vomits it up.

Immediate harm can come from products that can cause chemical burns on contact, including drain openers, toilet bowl cleaners and dishwasher detergent.

Read warning labels

But preventing poisonings at home really boils down to common sense, Lowry said. Store cleaning products and other chemicals in their original containers and store them on a high shelf. The same goes for medications - or, even better, keep them in a locked box. Replace childproof caps tightly after you use a medication.

If you have to use a pesticide or a cleaning product, use them in well-ventilated areas and follow the label instructions. "If a warning is there, pay attention to it," advised Soloway. She also recommended using just the amount of product that you need.

People who have plants in their homes need to know exactly what they are, as some can be irritating and others safe, Lowry said. And without knowing the kind of plant, it's difficult for poison control to help.

She also suggested getting down on your hands and knees and crawling around your house to get the same view your child might have. "That's when you'll see grandma's heart medicine that fell under the couch," Lowry said.

Tags poison health

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...