a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)
Week: 567.7 Guest: Heather Paul, Exec. Director, National Safe Kids Campaign Topic: Keeping kids safe from poisons Producer/Host: Steve Girard
NEMA: Children are at much higher risk of poisoning injury and death than adults...they're smaller, have higher metabolic rates, and are physically less able to handle exposure to toxins. So, when we look around our home, garage and yard...we have to keep them in mind...and prevent them from getting their hands on things that could literally kill them. Heather Paul, Executive Director of the National Safe Kids Campaign, visits with us today...
PAUL: Overall the problem with poisonings in children is that you have parents who are unaware of how close and how dangerous medications can be to children. And also we're talking for the most part about small children who have a tendency to put most things in their mouth anyway... and to romp through a house, especially in a blink of an eye, they can move from one room to the next. And there are certain medications of course, and even vitamins, like iron , that can be very, very dangerous, even life threatening to children. So there are certain precautions that any care giver or family member can take to make sure their children are protected from poisoning.
NEMA: And I know there's a golden rule that folks should follow...
PAUL: Number 1, store all medications, vitamins and household products locked out of sight. So that means maybe buying some child latches for your medicine cabinet, also for your under sink cabinet, that's where you keep some, even medications, let alone household cleaning products. And make sure that your children are supervised at all times even in those spaces where some of these products might be available. Check out the bathroom as well for anything on the floor if you have children who are crawling, and of that age 3 and under who tend to, put just about anything in their mouth even if it doesn't taste good. Now, I think parents too should not fall into the trap of calling medicine and vitamins, candy, and kind of luring their children in to taking it a little more easily because the Tylenol taste like bubble gum. That might be true, but it's very important for kids as soon as possible not to confuse candy and other bright colored pills. That's very important. Make sure you go through your old medicines and vitamins and toss things out that have an expiration date that has been passed. Take all that old medicine and flush it down the toilet and just deal with your most recent medications or over-the-counter drugs that have child resistant packaging. Keep things in original containers. There's a tendency sometimes of older folks to take their pills and put them in paper bags and store them in odd places for convenience sake, but if they have grandchildren around or other little kids it can be very dangerous if the kids get into the bags, without the protection of child resistant packaging.
NEMA: Heather, how big is this problem?
PAUL: Each year more than 1.2 million unintentional poisonings among children ages 12 and under are reported to all U.S. Poison Control Centers. So this is a serious problem.
NEMA: Another toxin many people are still dealing with is lead.... we've heard for many years now about the dangers, but I guess the issue remains prominent....
PAUL: Well unfortunately we still have over 3 million children ages 5 and under that suffer from lead poisoning in the U.S. right now. And those are just the ones we know about. And the most common cause of lead poisoning is from the inhalation of dust from deteriorating lead based paint. So we always recommend that any apartment dweller or home owner living in space that was constructed before 1978, they better have, check with their landlord or have some sort of a batement specialist come in and check for lead based paint because its very, very dangerous. And not just the peeling away and eating, the actual gestation of the lead based paint, but also what comes from just the dust, of that paint base. So that's a key issue, all, all dwellers of any space should know the paint in their house and the apartment is not lead based. Of course, children ages 1 to 3 are at the greatest risk from obviously putting paint chips in their mouths, kind of chewing on a window sill, that kind of thing. And the idea that their bodies are so small that the inhalation or ingestation of lead just creates a worse condition in their blood levels. So it's really an important issue, especially for those in old housing.
NEMA: Now, the last thing I wanted to talk with you about today is carbon monoxide poisoning... nearly two thousand cases affecting children are reported each year, and many of these children die. Is the main cause the heating appliances, the furnaces we have in our homes...?
Dr. Paul: Any fuel burning appliance could be a hazard if the flue system, the ability of those vapors, the CO that's given off has no way to escape. And that's a greater problem in modern housing where we're all pretty much sealed in, windows are well sealed, and therefore the burden is on our venting systems and our chimneys to do the work, that perhaps the cracks and, doorways or open windows used to do. So it's, it's also a really sneaky dangerous, colorless and odorless and tasteless vapor. So it's very, very important to use a CO detector. They cost a little more than a smoke detector, twice and sometimes three times as much, 35 - 40 dollars, but it's worth it. There should be one in a sleeping area, if you just have one. And the tragedy is that some people suffer in a chronic way from CO poisoning, they just don't know it and they're not dying immediately but their brain is really being denied oxygen and, over time, it can create some kind of actual impairments... but certainly flu symptoms, headaches. So this is a sneaky one and I think it's very important to have a CO detector to make sure you're safe....your home is safe from those fumes.
NEMA: All adults have the responsibility, and moreover, the power to keep the risk of poisoning at a minimum for their children. It just takes a little bit of time and effort to keep them safe, and give you peace of mind.
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...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.