A trip to Grandma’s house for cookies, milk … and medicine? Poison-proof your home

Posted March 21, 2011, at 2:35 p.m.
Last modified March 21, 2011, at 7:40 p.m.
Eric Zelz | BDN

A trip to grandma and grandpa’s house is usually a fun-filled adventure for children of all ages. However, sometimes the visit has toxic, and tragic, consequences.

Grandparents’ homes present unique hazards for toddlers. Many grandparents are out of the habit of poison-proofing their homes, since their own children have grown up and moved on. In addition, grandparents may have health conditions that require medications. Some of these medications can cause serious poisoning if a toddler swallows just one tablet or capsule. The places that grandparents store medications are often exciting to explore: purses, pill reminder boxes and pill bottles.

Household cleaners, pesticides and other chemicals are also a problem. Storing non-food in the same places and similar containers as food and drinks can lead to poisonings of children as well as adults.

Here are some common but preventable poisoning scenarios:

  • A child swallows her grandfather’s heart medication. The lid was off because his arthritis makes the container too hard to open.
  • A child thinks a pill reminder is a box with treats behind the little doors.
  • A child opens grandma’s purse and eats lipstick or drinks hand sanitizer.
  • A child eats crunchy rat poison stored in a container on a shelf or top of the refrigerator. He thought it was generic Grape Nuts cereal.
  • An elderly man mistakes hemorrhoid medication for toothpaste and brushes his teeth with it.

Fortunately, there are steps grandparents can take to make their homes safer when grandchildren visit. Here are some tips:

  • Keep all medications in child-resistant bottles with the lid tightly closed.
  • Use pill reminder boxes with child-resistant closures, available at your pharmacy.
  • Be aware that the contents of your purse may include medications, makeup and other hazardous items that are attractive to inquisitive children.
  • Keep all medications (pill bottles, boxes and purses with pills) out of sight and out of reach of children. A bathroom medicine cabinet or bedside table is not a safe place to store your medicines.
  • Do not store chemicals and other nonfood items in food or drink containers or in the same location as foods and drinks.

For more information about poison prevention contact the Northern New England Poison Center at Maine Medical Center in Portland, online at www.mmc.org or by phone at 800-222-1222.

Karen E. Simone is the director of the Northern New England Poison Center in Portland.

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