Protecting Grandchildren From Poisoning in Your Home

When it comes to your grandchildren, you may enjoy “bending” the rules a little bit, whether it’s giving an extra treat or allowing later bedtimes. But if you are one of the increasing number of grandparents who are providing day care for your grandchildren or with whom your grandchildren live, you may need to update your knowledge in areas that affect child safety.

For example, you may have raised your own children without serious incident, but re-learning how to child proof your home and taking steps to prevent accidental injury, including poisoning, may require a whole new effort. The primary killer of children is not disease, but unintentional injuries (accidents), which frequently occur in the home and are preventable.

Whether you help as a full-time caregiver, or just an occasional babysitter, you need first to child-proof your home. Studies show that adults age 65 and older are taking more varieties of medications today than ever before. These medications tend to be some of the most toxic, therefore posing an increased risk to children. Recent studies show that over one-third of childhood accidents involving ingestion of a prescription involve the child swallowing the grandparent’s medication. Less than half of the grandparents had safety latches on their cabinets and only one-tenth of the grandparents were trained in CPR. 

Use the list below to get started on your safe-grandchild program.

  • Supervise your grandchildren at all times when they are in your care.

  • Never leave them alone, even for a second. 

  • Pay special attention to safety in the kitchen, garage and bathroom.

  • Keep all medications in a child-proof container, but still place them in locked or secured cabinets. Many children can become expert climbers, so putting medications up high does not ensure the child’s safety. This rule applies not only to prescription medications but also to all over-the-counter medications, vitamins and dietary supplements. Many women keep their medications in their purse for easy access during the day. Children love to go through purses and suitcases when grandparents visit, so purses and suitcases should be stored safely out of reach of children. 

  • Go through your medicine cabinet at least once a year and discard expired or unnecessary medication. They should be flushed down the toilet rather than thrown away in the trash. 

  • Keep all hazardous substances stored in the proper containers in locked cabinets. These substances include such things as bleaches, cleaning and polishing products, pesticides, gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, matches, lawn products, cosmetics and batteries.

  • Many houseplants are poisonous. It is best to not have any of these in the home where children frequently visit. The poison control center can help identify any potentially harmful plants. If there are hazardous plants in the home and the child visits only infrequently, keep them stored away while the child is present.

  • Keep handy the phone number to the poison control center 1-800-222-1222. The phone numbers for the child’s pediatrician, the closest hospital emergency room and ambulance service are also important to keep readily accessible. Two excellent places for these numbers are by each phone or on the refrigerator. If you suspect a child has been exposed to poison, call 911 immediately.

  • If the 911 emergency service is not available in your area, the proper procedure for accessing emergency assistance should be written down and kept by the refrigerator or phone.

  • Keep a first aid kit handy, quickly replacing any supplies that are used. The kit should include syrup of ipecac and activated charcoal in case the child ingests a poison. In the case of a poisoning, do not try to get the child to vomit unless instructed by emergency personnel. Some substances that can burn the esophagus when swallowed will cause further damage to the esophagus if the child vomits.

  • Classes in first aid and CPR are usually available either free or at a low cost in most communities. These classes are extremely valuable for any person providing care for a child.

  • Be cautious when distractions occur, such as the doorbell or telephone. Take the child with you to the door or phone. When you are providing care for one child, such as a bath or bedtime routine, remember to keep an eye on any other child or children in your care. A child may appear to be safely watching TV one minute, and can be in danger the very next second. The children should be within eyesight at all times. 

Remember--constant supervision is always the best method to prevent accidents. Even when a house is thought to be childproof, children are curious and can find potentially dangerous situations. So, no matter how safe you think your house is, keep children under your constant supervision.

Return to the Safety Resource Center