There are a lot of memes on social media about life before and after kids. Most of them are hilarious but very true. The focus of this piece however is on one of the aspects of life before and after kids that is very important because it can pose a great hazard to kids. It’s easy to leave your day to day objects in particular parts of the house where they would be easily accessible- detergents near the washing machine, routine pills by your bed, kerosene for those who use kerosene stove or sell kerosene in a place that is accessible. People who make soap from caustic soda may also have it improperly stored in the house. With kids in the house, keeping these things this way can be very dangerous.
Children are adventurous by nature. There is a lot of “wow, what is this? What does it taste like? Mama takes this like this, what does it taste like? Everything goes in their mouth especially fluids that they think is water or a tasty drink. It’s very easy for them to drink something they should not or take a huge amount of their medication.
It may seem like a farfetched idea but that was how it felt to the parents who had to hurry to the emergency department because their child consumed one of the above mentioned chemicals or overdosed on one of their medications. Suspected poisoning in children results in about 40,000 annual Emergency Department attendances in England and Wales (Medscape). A study done to show the frequency and pattern of accidental childhood poisoning in Enugu state, Nigeria, revealed an incidence rate of 442 per 100,000 children and a male to female ratio of 1.5:1. Kerosene was the most common poisonous agent. The overall mortality was 3.1%. (National Centre for biotechnology information)
It is better to be safe than sorry! The home should be made safe for children to prevent their exploration journey from leading them to the emergency room (hospital). The following steps should help in reducing child hood poisoning.
- All medicines should be stored out of the sight and reach of children; preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Pills should not be taken in front of kids. ‘Monkey see, monkey do’. They are bound to be interested in taking that nice stuff Mama or Papa takes.
- Children should never be told that medicine tastes like candy. This may be tempting when it is time to give your child his medication. It may however encourage your child to ingest such drugs when you are not around.
- Alcoholic drinks should be kept out of the reach of children. The house should be cleaned up immediately after a party.
- Household cleaning products, kerosene and other harmful items should not be put in old soda bottles or containers that were once used for food. Children associate those containers with sweet drinks and food and would definitely want to taste whatever is in them.
- Insecticide powders or rat poisons should not be put on the floor.
- Household cleaning products and detergents, insecticides, pest poisons and other harmful substances should be stored in a locked cupboard.
- Safety latches should be used for all cabinets containing hazardous substances.
- When cleaning or using household chemicals, bottles and buckets should not be left unattended.
- Mouthwash, cosmetics, toiletries, perfumes, hair dye, hair spray, nail and shoe polish, nail polish remover should be kept out of the reach of your kids.
- Babies should not be allowed to play with cosmetic products or other containers that you are not comfortable with them playing with when you are not around. It is easy to give your baby his lotion bottle or your perfume bottle to play with just to distract him or pacify her at that moment. The truth is that you have given them a silent permission to play with those items when you are not there. Without your supervision, the contents may pour out and baby may be delighted to ingest some. Try to have safe toys in every room in the house to keep them busy.
If despite the above measures a child accidentally consumes harmful substances, they should be taken to the hospital immediately. Poison centers can be called in countries where these are available. An important fact to add here is that if a child drinks caustic soda or some other corrosive substance, kerosene or some other similar product like gasoline, etc., the child should not be made to vomit as this can worsen the injuries incurred.
Children are beautiful fragile explorers who should be allowed to learn about their world in a safe environment. Parents, grandparents, Uncles and Aunties, let us all try to make our homes safe for them.