Dishwash powder big danger to kids

Over half of poison exposures result from children exploring their own environment.
Photo / Thinkstock
Over half of poison exposures result from children exploring their own environment. Photo / Thinkstock

The Poisoners

In Auckland Museum's exhibition The Poisoners, experts look at toxic surprises that may lurk in the bush or the bathroom. Today, the focus is on poisons around the home.

Parents hankering to return to the safety of home after the holidays may be surprised to learn about the thousands of children exposed to poisons in the home every year.

Latest statistics show that of the 5700 poison exposures recorded by the National Poisons Centre, over half - 2990 cases - resulted from the children exploring their own environment. And more than 1000 of those involved substances around the household and a further 1187 involved unintentional poisoning from therapeutic or prescription drugs.

National Poisons Centre operations manager Lucy Shieffelbien said about 60 to 65 per cent of calls it received related to children under 5, and youngsters 1 to 3 were the most likely age group to be poisoned.

After common painkillers including paracetamol and Ibruprofen, one of the household poisons most likely to generate calls to the centre is dishwashing powder.

"Most of these products are very caustic and can burn a child's throat if they swallow some of the powder so parents need to store dishwashing powder out of reach and use the lock on their dishwasher," said Ms Shieffelbien.

"Parents are sometimes lulled into a false sense of security because of the child-resistant closures on products like dishwashing powder. They can think of them as 'child-proof caps' but nothing is child-proof."

Other common substances include oral contraceptives, air freshener and fly spray, perfume, bleach and the liquid inside glowsticks.

Two common poisons in the garden are black nightshade and arum lily.

"For parents looking at how to protect their children in the home, the message with poisons is that the best medicine is always prevention," said Ms Shieffelbien.

Preventive actions include keeping poisons out of sight and out of reach of children. Dispose of old, unused medicines and put medicines and cleaning products back in their storage place immediately after use.

"For summer, another poison to think about is swimming pool chemicals.

"These can cause burns and breathing difficulties so it's important to handle them carefully and to lock them away when you've finished."

Be poison-proof
* Keep all chemicals and medicines out of sight and reach of children, preferably locked away.

*Store poisonous substances in their original containers - never in food or drink containers.

*At the chemist, ask for child-safety caps on all medicines.

*Supervise children closely when visiting other people's homes - where poisons may not be stored out of reach or out of sight.

*If you suspect your child has swallowed poison, do not try to make them vomit or give them anything to eat or drink until you have obtained advice.

*Phone the New Zealand National Poisons Centre on 0800 POISON (0800-764-766) - this toll-free service operates 24 hours a day.

- NZ Herald

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