June is National Safety Month. Did you know that potentially hazardous substances can be found in nearly every home? Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe from potentially toxic exposures!
1. Store all medications, chemicals and household products out of reach and out of sight of children—ideally locked up.
I know what you are thinking, ‘do I really need to put a lock on every pill, cleaner, and bottle of mouthwash in my house?’ If small children live in your home, we strongly recommend it. Kids can get very creative when their curiosity takes hold: they’ll drag chairs around to help them climb, enlist the help of siblings, distract you with their cuteness, etc. Child locks provide a barrier which will hopefully slow kids down enough to lose interest or until an adult can stop them before they get into trouble.
2. Keep potential poisons in containers with child safety caps, but remember that child-resistant does not mean child-proof.
Child safety caps were a fantastic invention. They’ve greatly contributed to the decrease in childhood poisonings and we absolutely recommend they be used on any non-food substance that comes in a bottle. But it is very important to remember that they are not kid-kryptonite. The caps will slow them down a little, but they will not stop children from eventually getting into the bottle if that is what they have their mind set on. Child safety caps are NOT a substitute for locking substances out of sight and reach.
3. Do not take or give medicine in the dark. Carefully verify the name and directions on the bottle, every time.
4. Do not take more medication than directed, and do not take medication that was not prescribed for you.
It is tempting to think that more medicine will make you feel better faster, or that your spouse’s leftover antibiotic would work great on your sinus symptoms. However, taking too much medicine or the wrong medicine can result in all kinds of badness like a drug interaction, nasty side effects or inadvertent overdose.
5. Never call medicine candy, or make a game out of taking it.
It can be really hard to get kids to take their medicine, usually on account of the yucky taste. But if you trick them into taking it by telling them it is candy, make a game out of taking it, or praise/reward them when they swallow it, what are they going to do when they want attention from mom and dad? They are going to find the candy or game so you can be proud of them some more.
6. If you finish taking a medication before the bottle is empty, promptly dispose of the remainder properly.
A cabinet full of old, unused medication increases the likelihood of a medication error. All prescription bottles pretty much look alike, so it’s easy to reach in and accidentally grab the Vicodin from an old dental procedure, instead of your daily blood pressure med. You don’t want to find out that mistake when it kicks in as you’re driving on the expressway to work.
7. Use a measuring spoon or dropper for liquid medications: do not use a kitchen spoon, or take ‘swigs’ out of the bottle.
As a pharmacist, this is my personal pet peeve. In fact, I dedicated an entire blog post to it last year. (check it out!)
8. Store all cleaning products in their original containers and do not store food substances with non-food substances.
So often, the IPC gets called about someone who took a drink of what they thought was a beverage, only to discover that it was anything but. Here are some examples:
- Commercial strength pesticide (brown colored) in an iced tea bottle
- Windshield washer fluid in a Gatorade bottle
- Lamp oil in a Pedialyte bottle
- Vodka in a water bottle
- Liquid methadone (from a drug treatment program) in a children’s ibuprofen bottle
(okay these last two aren’t cleaning products, but the moral of the story is the same)
9. Never mix cleaning products! Always use them in well ventilated areas.
Case in point: if you mix bleach and an acid (say, drain opener or toilet bowl cleaner), chlorine gas is created. Chlorine gas was used as a chemical warfare agent in World War I. You do not want to create this stuff in your bathroom.
10. To avoid food poisoning, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Eat food immediately after cooking/preparing it, and put leftovers in the fridge within 2 hours.
Sometimes, a poisoning can happen to even the most diligent of tip-followers. If it does, call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222! Be sure visit the IPC website – www.illinoispoisoncenter.org for more useful poison prevention information and tips. Remember that anything can be toxic – poisoning is a matter of dose.