Well it’s about that time of August where parents are rejoicing and kids are groaning: the beginning of a new school year. For most families, their summer and school year schedules are drastically different, and the transition can take some getting used to. Below are some common poisoning hazards that can happen to you or your family during this time of year and tips on how to avoid them.
- Morning Med Mix-up: Our AM call center shift says these calls come in like clockwork between about 7-8am, when things are hectic and everyone is scrambling to get out of the house. The brother accidentally takes the sister’s medication, the sister accidentally takes Dad’s medicine, Dad accidentally takes the dog’s medication and the dog accidentally gets Mom’s medicine. Taking the wrong pill, even just one, can potentially cause some serious side effects. So when its pill popping time, slow down and carefully read each label, every time. Wait until you are ready to swallow it before you take a pill out of its container; don’t set it out on the counter or another family member could mistake it for their own.
- Double Dose Dilemma: Picture this – a child is on medication and the busy parent or caregiver dutifully gives their child his or her medication…..without realizing that the other parent (or babysitter) already gave it! This is a another common scenario, which can occur either in the morning or at bedtime, both of which are usually busier than in the laid back summer. If verbal communication is too unreliable with your busy schedules, try keeping a written record so “medicine given” can be checked off when it is done. It could be as simple as putting an initial or symbol on each day on your refrigerator calendar so everyone in the house knows if medicine has been given or not. Well worth the time for the peace of mind and potentially serious side effects.
- Bottle Blunders: With the household up and at ‘em in the wee hours of the morning, it can be easier than you think for your half-awake bleary eyes to grab the wrong bottle when you are getting ready for your day. Some examples: half-asleep, you reach for the toothpaste and instead get a mouthful of…..Bengay muscle rub (hey, it smells minty too!), or you step out of the shower in a quasi-morning stupor, reach for your spray deodorant and instead get foaming bathroom cleaner (not exactly what you want to smell like all day), or you reach into the pantry to crack open a new bottle of apple juice and instead pour…lamp oil (bad news). So for all of us non-morning people out there, avoid these scenarios by storing medications and cleaning products in a completely separate spot from your toiletries and food.
- Chemistry Class Catastrophes: You may think to yourself, “school wouldn’t give dangerous substances to experiment with, would they?” Think again, they don’t call it ‘chemistry’ for nothing. Famous last words before the poison center gets involved: “I dare you….”. Carelessness or horsing around in science class can indeed be dangerous when chemicals are involved so respect those potentially dangerous substances.
- School Supply Scares: One of my favorite back to school rituals was buying new school supplies. Backpacks, pens, folders, binders, notebooks, markers, etc. There is something slightly exhilarating about the possibilities and potential of a stack of blank white paper and not-yet-creased folder. Luckily most school supplies are not major toxicological hazards, but there are a couple common calls that IPC gets every year. One is silica gel packets. You know the little white pouches that come in new shoes or backpacks; looks kind of like a big salt packet. It’s there to keep moisture out of those items and many kids have deemed it to look quite appetizing. Luckily the small round balls inside the packet are completely harmless and nontoxic; it’s just like getting a mouthful of sand at the beach. The pouches often have, ‘do not eat’ printed on them, but that is so folks don’t mistake it for a salt, sugar or spice packet (oh yes, that does happen too). The only potential danger of silica gel packets is that they are a choking hazard, so do toss them as soon as you bring your new purchases home.
Another common school-day call (this one from the school nurses) is the infamous pen exploding in the mouth. A student will be mesmerized by a scintillating discussion of long division, mindlessly chew on a pen and oops! Again, this is not expected to cause any harm and is more of a cosmetic mess than anything. I know history is super boring but amuse yourself with the cracking ceiling pattern instead of munching on a pen, because stained blue/black mouth is not expected to be a fashion must this year.
As usual, if you or your family becomes victim to one of these back to school mishaps, just call 1-800-222-1222 (24/7) to talk to one of our highly educated experts for advice.
Til next Tuesday,