Parents have been overdosing me with questions about accidental poisonings and what can be done to prevent their child from eating or drinking something they shouldn’t.  

More than two million poisonings occur each year. Ninety percent of poisonings happen in the home with more than half in children less than 6 years of age. 

While no parent ever intends to give their child something that will make them sick, poisoning accidents can and do occur. March is National Poison Prevention Month, so here are five steps to reduce the chance of an accidental poisoning:

  1. Store and restore drugs and medication in a medicine cabinet that is locked and out of reach. In fact, even common bathroom products such as toothpaste or shampoo should be locked up. Any medicines in your purse should also be kept off limits or away from small children who are always curious to see what is inside a handbag.
  2. All medications should have child safety caps, even if they are adult medications. Remember that “child resistant” does not mean child proof –only that it will take your child longer to get into it and by that time you may discover your child trying to open the pill container or medicine bottle.
  3. Don’t take medicine in front of your child or say it is like taking candy or your child is apt to imitate you.
  4. Store hazardous detergents and cleaning products in locked cabinets that are out of your child’s reach. That means not under the kitchen or bathroom sink, unless the storage cabinets are locked with a safety latch.
  5. Never put hazardous products in food or beverage containers, especially empty drinking bottles, cans or cups. Always empty out any glasses after parties or gatherings where alcohol is served, with alcohol also being locked away in a cabinet.

If you find your child starts to vomit suddenly and has not been sick, or is having trouble breathing when they haven’t had trouble before, or is not as alert as normal, a poison ingestion could be a possibility.

If you are worried about a possible ingestion, you can get help by calling your child’s health care professional or, if more urgent, the New England Regional Poison Center at 1-800 -222-1222: they can instruct you on what to do next.

Hopefully tips like these will be easy ones to ingest when it comes to doing all you can to protect your child from an accidental poisoning.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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