Protect your children from potential hazards

Each year, approximately 45 children, age 4 and under, die from unintentional exposure to medicines and household products, and millions of unintentional poisonings among children ages 5 and under occur each year. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, preventable injuries are the #1 killer of children in the United States. Many of these occurrences may have been prevented with education about household hazards and learning how to prevent unintentional injury and poisonings.

As part of Cultural Care’s Continuing Safety Education Program, au pairs review the importance of recognizing a potential hazard and preventing them from harming the children in their care. 

I began the meeting by placing household items along the table and asked the au pairs to choose which, if any, were safe for children. The items included: children’s multivitamins, nail polish remover, batteries, all-natural all purpose cleaner, a small toy flashlight and children’s pain and fever reducer. While some were more obvious than others, all of these items are potential hazards to children. Many au pairs were surprised to learn that even children’s vitamins and medicines can be toxic in quantities larger than the allowed dosage for a child’s weight and age.

Batteries. We also discussed being sure children can’t access the batteries in small toys. The small flashlight toy I brought to the meeting had an easily accessible battery compartment that contained a small circular battery. Swallowed batteries burn through a child’s esophagus in just 2 hours, leading to serious injury, surgery, and even death. About the size of a nickel, 20 mm, 3-volt lithium coin cells are the most hazardous as they are big enough to get stuck and burn faster. Secure battery compartments and keep loose batteries away from children.

Medicine. As parents, au pairs and caregivers, it is our responsibility to be a good example for the little ones in our lives. Try to take medicine out of sight of children and never refer to medicine as candy for yourself or your child. Though they are little, they can understand clearly that medicine is to be taken only when given by an adult. A four year old will mimic our actions just as surely as a teething toddler will put everything in his mouth. These are two reasons it is very important that we model safety around medicine and potential hazards in our homes.

Household Cleaners. The image above shows how easily a child could mistake medicine for candy. Likewise, many liquid cleaners and perfumes may look like juice to a child, and should be kept out of reach from little ones.


Tips to prevent unintentional poisoning from the National Capital Poison Center Poison Control: 

Be prepared. Put the Poison Control number in or near your phone. Save webPOISONCONTROL® as a browser favorite.

Install a carbon monoxide alarm in every sleeping area of your home.

Poison proof every home where your child spends time.

Lock household products and medicines out of your child’s reach.

Use child-resistant packaging. Replace caps securely.

Store household products in a different place from food and medicine.

Keep purses out of your child’s reach.

Use medicines safely. Read the label before taking or giving medicine. Follow instructions exactly.

Use the correct dosing syringe or cup, NOT a household spoon. Ask your child’s pediatrician before giving any herbal medicine or supplement.

These especially hazardous household products must always be kept out of a child’s reach: Antifreeze, windshield washer solutions, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, insecticides, gasoline, oils, paint thinners. Buy small quantities only. Discard unneeded extras safely.

Keep button batteries out of reach of children. Secure the battery compartment on every battery-powered product.


What should you do if a child in your care is exposed to a poison?

*If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911*

For poison on the skin: Remove contaminated clothing and flood skin with water for 10 minutes. Then wash gently with soap and water and rinse.

For poison in the eye: Flood the eye with lukewarm (not hot) water poured from a large glass 2 or 3 inches from the eye. Repeat for 15 minutes. Have patient blink as much as possible while flooding the eye. Do not force the eyelid open.

For inhaled poison: Immediately get the person to fresh air. Avoid breathing fumes. Open doors and windows wide. If victim is not breathing, start artificial respiration and call 911.

For swallowed poison: If medicine: Do not give anything by mouth until calling for advice. If chemical or household products: Unless patient is unconscious, having convulsions, or cannot swallow, give milk or water immediately. Then call 911.


Review these safety measures with your family and caregivers, and repeat them often. As with all important information, the more we hear it or say it, the more we’ll know it; and nothing may be more important than the safety of children in our care.

Just as we ended our meeting, I end this post by asking you to take just a minute to add the Poison Control phone number to your contacts: 1-800-222-1222. 



Thank you to Safe Kids Worldwide, Poison Control and Cultural Care Au Pair for the information and image in this blog post.

Sunday, 15 January 2017 1:15 PM


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