Keeping Kids Healthy 
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

It’s important for parents to remember that not all poisons are in the garage or basement.

A number of poisons can be found throughout the house. Small children are both curious and fast, so parents have to exercise special care not to leave dangerous products open or within their reach.

Take a tour of your house or apartment to see if some of these dangerous conditions exist.

• In the kitchen, check that all detergents, bleaches, cleaners and especially drain cleaners, as well as soaps and bug killers are not under the sink in an unlocked cupboard, but up high in a cupboard with a childproof lock.

Products containing lye are extremely dangerous. Don’t keep these in your home. Keep alcoholic drinks up out of the reach of children.

• Buy products with childproof or child-resistant caps. Opening them should require thumb pressure beyond the ability of small children.

• In the bathroom, besides checking that soaps are out of reach, keep medicines, cosmetics, colognes, toothpaste and mouthwashes out of reach — and preferably locked up.

• Don’t leave pills in open bottles or in a dish of “the day’s dose of medicine.” Make sure all product labels are clear — both on medicine and on products that might be found anywhere in the house. In an emergency, you will need to know what product was involved.

• To discard old medications follow the following steps:
 

1. Keep in original container;

2. Mark out the name on the label;

3. Determine if your community has a medicine take-back program.

Contact your city or county household trash and recycling service or your pharmacist to determine if such a program exists.

If not, do the following:
• Put liquid medicine in a scalable bag;

• Place in a study container such as a box;

• Put a nontoxic product like cayenne pepper, kitty litter or coffee grounds over the medicine;

• Place the container in the garbage right before pickup.
 

The University of Texas Medical Branch offers a take-back program once or twice a year.
 

• In the bedroom, remember that perfumes, cosmetics and purses that may contain them probably contain products dangerous to a young child.

• Don’t keep headache medicines, especially jell caps and other candy look-alike medications on the night stand.

• In the living room, know the names of your plants and whether leafs or blossoms are poisonous.

• In the basement and garage, make sure that insect sprays, lighter fluid, paint and turpentine or other thinners, rust removers, gasoline, oil, fertilizers, antifreeze, weed killer, bug or rat killers and all other chemicals are out of reach and locked up.

• Homes built or last painted before 1978 may contain lead. Flaking paint on the outside of the house can contaminate the ground. Exposed, lead-based paint on window sills or doors can cause lead poisoning leading to brain damage.

If you suspect the presence of lead paint, call your local health department.

If you think that your child has been poisoned, call the Poison Center at 800-222-1222. Do not use syrup of ipecac before calling.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.