Pills and Detergents and Outlets..Oh My!

This week’s guest columnist is Dr. Claire Ronkartz, a Family Practice resident at the University Hospital and Clinics here in Lafayette.

It’s a classic medical board question: “A two-year old visiting her grandparents’ is found with some blood pressure pills.  What is the best first step managing this patient?” Though I’ve answered this questions many times on tests, I was still at a loss when it really happened!  My two year-old had discovered some luggage with unsecured medication inside, and was mouthing one when we came upon her. So I called Poison Control (stop reading now and write down this number: 1-800-222-1222). They advised a trip to the Emergency Department, where our girl drank an activated charcoal mix, was watched for some hours, and we went home.

Although we thought we had meticulously placed all medications out of reach, in locked containers, accidents still happen.  So when your child begins crawling (or even after!), it’s a good time to think about child-proofing.  From button batteries to cosmetics and talcum powder, a young adult’s first “grown-up” house, when they have kids, can be a house-of-horrors for youngsters.  The newest hazard is laundry-detergent pods. Designed for ease of use by adults, these tasty-looking, colorful gems can burn mouths and throats and eyes, causing vomiting and breathing difficulty. Do they have to make them look so good to eat?

The best way to toddler-proof your house is to be a toddler.  Get down on your hands and knees and crawl through every square-inch of your house.  Open every cabinet and drawer you can reach, and put every single thing you find in your mouth.  If you don’t dare eat what you grab, it needs to be somewhere safer.  Then from your hands and knees, look up.

What’s above you that looks attractive, or even just mildly fun to play with? Find something to climb on- a kitchen step-stool, chair, or ottoman.  Can you push it over and crawl up within reach of what you see?  Grab the boiling pot.  Eat the medication sitting on the counter.  Absurd as this sounds, if it can be done, a toddler has already done so in the past, and will in the future.  Make sure it’s not your’s.

Now that you’ve done a decent job of making home safe for your little one, you may feel adventurous and head out for vacation, or maybe just Wal-Mart.  One such trip to the store nearly ended in tragedy for me.  My child launched herself out of the shopping cart in the one second it took to reach for some salad dressing.  Luckily my husband was right there and grabbed her as she tumbled out head-first!  From then on she was seated and belted in the cart. While that’s not as fun as shopping cart surfing, it may save a trip to the the ER.

Going out with toddlers poses a new set of risks than your home.  Perhaps most important when you are out is safety around cars, moving or parked. Every week in the U.S., at least 50 children are backed over in driveways and parking lots. LIttle ones who dart outside to say goodbye often go unseen by a driver when the vehicle is set in motion. Many times the driver is a parent, relative, or neighbor.  

Following a few simple tips can protect your family from this tragedy.  Teach children that parked cars may move at any time.  Let them know that even if they see the vehicle, the driver may not see them.  Always hold a child’s hand in the parking lot. Teach them never to play in, around, or especially behind any vehicle.  Be especially vigilant when someone else is leaving the house and driving away.  Outside house doors should be toddler-proofed.

The world of baby safety can be overwhelming.  And now manufacturers prey on your fears, offering lots of products- toilet bowl locks, outlet plugs, stove knob covers, baby gates, etc.  While some of these items may be helpful, doing the simple things we’ve discussed above goes a long way.  The last thing to do is be prepared for an emergency: post or put in your phone the Poison Control number (again, 1-800-222-1222).  Take a CPR/Heimlich class.  Read the books.  Know the location of your nearest child-capable ER.  And for goodness sake don’t buy those stupid detergent pods.

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