Spring 2012
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Is It Candy or Medicine?


Many children will not know the difference between colorful pills and candy. Plus, many potentially harmful items such as vitamins, medicine and plant berries look good enough to eat. Here are ways to protect your family from potentially harmful substances.

It Only Takes Seconds

Any parent or caregiver knows that an accident with a child can happen in an instant. That's why it's especially important to keep medicine and other potentially harmful substances locked up, out of sight and out of reach.

Child-resistant packaging has helped reduce the number of children who are harmed each year from swallowing medication. Yet, poison control centers handle more than 2 million incidents each year. That's one every 13 seconds. Nearly half involve young children ages 5 or under who like to climb, explore or put interesting-looking things into their mouths. Other poisonings occur from toxic fumes or common household chemicals.

Home, Safe Home

According to Safe Kids USA, for every 10 poison exposures in children, approximately nine occur in the home. Products you may not think are dangerous, such as cosmetics or personal care products like bath oil, can be harmful if swallowed.

Get on your hands and knees and look at things from your child's perspective. Find out what's in lower cabinets and drawers. Remove dangerous items, including household cleansers, or install child-proof safety locks.

Safety Tips:

  • Keep medications and other potentially harmful substances, such as vitamins, eye drops, perfume and household cleansers (see additional list below), out of your child's reach and sight. If they are easy for you to find, a child can get to them, too.
  • Always read medicine labels and double-check the markings on dosing cups, spoons and dispensers. Children can become very ill or even die if given an adult dosage or the wrong medication.
  • Make sure child-proof caps are included on all medications and that they are screwed on tightly after use.
  • Don't use heavy-duty products, such as drain opener or oven cleaner, when your child is around. Wait until they are napping or away from the house.
  • Never store chemicals or other products in anything other than original packages. Some people have transferred them into soda bottles or other containers that look appealing to children, but can have deadly consequences.
  • Teach your child to never put anything in his or her mouth if he or she doesn't know what it is.
  • Never give child sips of alcoholic beverages or leave cocktails or other alcoholic beverages sitting out.
  • Don't let your children out of your sight when visiting family or friends. Grandparents may not have child-resistant packaging and may keep medications out on bedside tables, counters or in purses. A weekly pill holder may look like a toy to a child.


  • Keep an eye on children at all times while they are playing.
  • Don't store harmful pesticides or weed killers where children can reach them.
  • Make sure charcoal fluid, paint thinner and other toxic chemicals are well out of reach from kids.
  • Store pool chemicals in original childproof containers.
  • Teach your children never to put any part of a plant – berries, flowers, etc. – into their mouths.
  • Learn what poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac look like, and keep your children away from them.

How to Get Help

Post the poison control number, 1 (800) 222-1222, in a central, visible location in your home near the phone. If you call, you will be routed to the nearest regional poison control center.

Store the number in your cell phone, and make sure all caregivers know how to call the poison control center if your child comes into contact with anything harmful.

Dangerous Products

Never allow your child to come into contact with these substances*:

  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Alcohol (can be found in drinks, aftershave, mouthwash and perfume)
  • Antifreeze
  • Heart and blood pressure medications
  • Cleaners with chemicals such as toiler bowl and oven cleanser, dishwasher soap, artificial nail primer, permanent wave solutions and hair remover
  • Eye drops and nasal sprays
  • Hydrocarbons often found in baby and bath oil, lamp oil, makeup remover, furniture polish, gasoline, lighter fluid, turpentine and kerosene
  • Iron supplements or adult vitamins with iron
  • Oral diabetes medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Pesticides including outdoor weed and insect killers, and indoor bug sprays and killers
  • Narcotic pain relievers such as codeine
  • Topical anesthetics such as first aid or sunburn cream

*Source: Parents magazine

Poison Prevention Week

National Poison Prevention Week is the third week in March each year; this year it is March 18-24, 2012. This week is designated to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.


Candy or Medicine?

Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.