Take Home Lessons: Kids and Cleaning Product Spray Bottles

By Tony Burda DABAT, and Sheri VanOsdol, Pharm.D.

You probably have seen or heard the story about the recent study released from the Journal of Pediatrics regarding the incidence of children treated in emergency departments due to exposure to household cleaning products.  Rather than quoting a lot of statistics, which you can find on other websites, we thought we’d give you IPC’s view on the article’s findings.

 One interesting fact pointed out by the study was that in 40% of cases, spray bottles (containers) were the most common source involved in injury due to poisonings in children 5 years of age or less.  Several factors make up for this ,such as a spray bottles resemblance to a water pistol; it’s attractive coloring, labeling and fragrance, and non-child resistant packaging.

An observation made by many of us in the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) is that:

  • children often wish to imitate adults using the products
  • children lack the dexterity and caution to use the spray bottle correctly
  • adults usually let their guard down and fail to exercise extra caution while the product is in use.  Frequently a parent calling the IPC will state “I was just cleaning my windows and my 2 year old grabbed the bottle of glass cleaner and squirted in his face,” or, “I was using the shower spray when I just turned around for a few seconds, and my 3-year old squirted himself in the mouth”.

To prevent this from happening:

  • Keep the child at a safe distance away from cleaning activities, painting, working on the car, etc.
  • Never ever transfer cleaning products from their original container to food or beverage containers such as cups, pop bottles, coffee cans, etc.
  • When not in use, keep these potentially hazardous products safely in a locked cabinet, stored in the “off” position.

The Journal of Pediatrics article was an excellent compilation of poisoning data that extrapolated a figure of 267,269 pediatric poisonings over a 17 year period.  One question that we asked ourselves was how many of these cases could have been safely and effectively managed at home under supervision of a Poison Control Center without the need for an emergency department visit.  This study noted that 5.6% of patients were admitted to a healthcare facility, which means that 94.4% were probably treated and released from the emergency department for minor or no effects resulting from the exposure.  Statistics from the IPC and national sources correspondingly show that most cases of poisoning exposure to small children may be “managed on site” without referral to a healthcare facility.  Therefore, the take home lesson is when any exposure to a household chemical occurs in the home, call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222 and obtain FREE help 24/7/365 from a trained health care professional who can determine whether or not the child needs a referral to the emergency department or can be treated at home with simple first aid.  Never give your child home remedies or antidotes in the event they (or you believe) ingest a potentially harmful substance; often times it can do more harm than good. Be sure to always consult with a health care professional.

Regardless of how the products are packaged (in pour, squeeze or spray containers), accidents happen. Household products can be harmful if swallowed, inhaled or applied to the eyes or skin.  Call the Illinois Poison Center immediately even when the “what if” situation occurs involving a child and a potentially hazardous household product.  We understand that even under the supervision of the most cautious parent or guardian, children will get into things.  Callers should not feel embarrassed or guilty to call us at any time.   Visit our website at www.IllinoisPoisonCenter.org for more poison prevention tips and a how to obtain free stickers and magnets.

Take a minute to check out the “My Child Ate…” resource center which gives toxicity level and treatment information for the most common substances/products ingested by children.

Do you have the number (1-800-222-1222) posted by and/or saved in your phone now?

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