Let’s be frank, we are surrounded by poisons all day, right?

So what is the poison that comes to your mind when you think of the word. Maybe the car exhaust on that busy street. Or the fumes from that remote factory. It could be the poisonous plants and snakes in a faraway jungle.

Well, these are poisons that we fear and try to avoid, for sure. But there are others that are not that far from you.

Poisons are much closer to you than you think. They are in your own home, kitchen, laundry room, garage, yard and even right beside your bed.

Yes, poisons are everywhere! Poisons can be drugs, plants at home, the laundry detergent, the household cleaners, and many others.

You might know this, but your kids probably don’t – and they are even more vulnerable to those toxins. In fact, they actually reach for them instead of avoiding them. Why?

–          Kids are curious and explore the world by tasting things.

–          Kids imitate you, taking your medicine if it is within reach.

–          Kids do not know candy from the colorful tablets and capsules.

These are some of the reasons that kids younger than 6 form about half of poison control centers’ exposure calls*.

So it’s time to take action. Let’s make our home safe for our kids. Let’s poison proof our homes!

–          Get rid of all unneeded old drugs.

–          Store medicines in containers, preferably child proof, away from children.

–          Store household cleaners up high and lock them. Under the sink is not the place for these. It should not be within your child’s sight.

–          Give your child his or her medicine as is. Do not refer to it as candy.

Now you know what to do with other dangerous products out there: alcohol, plants, pesticides, antifreeze, paint, etc.

But accidents still happen! So what should you do if you think your beloved got into one of these home poisons?

First of all, don’t panic. Act:

–          If your child is not responding to you, not breathing or having seizures, call 911 immediately.

–          If the person swallowed poison and is awake, give them sips of water and call your poison control center. Hold on to the suspected bottle.

–          If inhaled, take the person to fresh air and call the poison control center.

–          If poison is in the eye, rinse with lukewarm water for 15 min and call the poison control center.

–          If the poison has come into contact with skin, rinse with lukewarm water and remove clothes soaked. Call the poison control center.

Now for the don’ts. We mistakenly do these more that the do’s.

–          Do not induce vomiting, either by placing your finger in the throat or giving salt and water.

–          Do not give drugs that you think will treat the case.

–          Do not try to taste what your child swallowed.

–          Do not panic!

Not all poisoning scenarios are bad. The good news is, most poisonings have a happy ending. Just know the risk, avoid it and respond appropriately if it happens.

*Reference: American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Dr. Mohamed Enara, Ph.D.

Graduated from Cairo University Faculty of Medicine in 1988, I was physician in charge at the Poison Control Center. In 2001, I visited the Central Ohio Poison Center to develop an adapted Poison Prevention Program for Cairo. In 2004, I earned my Ph.D. in Clinical Toxicology, then moved to Saudi Arabia to establish and work as consultant in the Poison Control Center for the southern region. I later settled in Toronto, Canada, and continue the poison awareness mission to help our kids stay poison safe.