If you are a babysitter/sitter/nanny, or ever entrust your precious progeny to one of them, then this article is for you. About half of the IPC’s 80,000 exposures every year involve kids age 5 and under, and more than 90% of all exposures happen in the home. I think we all would agree that keeping children safe is the most important part of babysitting. Potentially harmful substances come in many forms (liquids, tablets, solids, sprays and gases), and can look or smell like things that are good to eat and drink. As you know, young children are curious, and they learn about their environment by touching and placing things in their mouths.
My motto has always been, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. The time to ask questions is before the parents walk out, and when kids are involved, always prepare for the unexpected! Below is a list of information to gather before you are left in charge (or leave others in charge of your child(ren):
1. What is the child’s medical history? This includes:
- Chronic health conditions (such as asthma, heart problems, diabetes, etc)
- Allergies (to foods, medicines, or other substances)
2. Is the child on any medication? Important to know even if you aren’t the one administering the medication, and absolutely essential if you are:
- Name of the medication and why the child is on it
- How often and exactly what time the medicine is given
- The dose and amount of medication that should be given. If it is a liquid, make sure that you have the proper dosing utensil and understand the markings on it.
3. Where are the medications, household cleaning products or other chemicals stored? This way you can be extra vigilant about keeping the child away from these areas.
4. Where is the carbon monoxide detector(s) and smoke alarm(s)?
5. What are the names of the plants inside the house and in the landscaping around the house (if the children will be playing outside while in your care)? If a child were to sample a leaf or berry, knowing the name of the plant is essential to determining its potential toxicity.
6. Make sure to obtain a contact list from the parents. This should include the phone numbers of the parents, grandparents (or other emergency contact), child’s pediatrician, and the location of the nearest emergency room and preferred hospital.
Now that you’ve got the important questions answered, here is a ‘to do list’ to keep the kiddos in your care safe and sound:
- Take the IPC’s online poison prevention education course to learn more about potentially harmful substances and the IPC.
- Put the IPC phone number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone! That way you have our experts at your fingertips whether you are at the child’s home, at the park, the zoo… anywhere.
- Check out the “My Child Ate…” resource center which gives toxicity level and treatment information for the most common substances/products ingested by children.
- Check any purses, backpacks or other bags that you plan to bring to your client’s house. Remove any medications, hairspray, cigarettes, mouthwash or other potentially harmful substances.
- Kids are FAST. Keep them in your sight at all times, even while you are answering the phone or making meals.
- Hopefully your clients have their medications and household cleaners in their original containers (w/labels) with safety caps and stored in a cabinet with a child lock. These child safety features are an important poison-prevention tool. However, remember that these are child-resistant, not child-proof, so they are not a substitute for your careful and constant supervision.
- If you use any cleaning products during your ‘shift’, be sure to:
- Read the instructions on the bottle to make sure you are using it correctly
- Never leave the product out while/after you are cleaning where a child may find it
- Close the container tightly and place it back in a locked cabinet.
And of course, always call the IPC if you suspect a child has been exposed to any potentially harmful substance. Don’t guess, be sure. No issue is too big or small, always call! Visit our website at www.illinoispoisoncenter.org for more info!