Three years. I made it three years of being a mom before having to call Poison Control.

I was playing with the baby in the playroom and letting my 3-year-old son run around. He walked in, very proud of himself, sucking on his tube of Paw Patrol fluoride toothpaste.

I’ve worried about keeping things out of reach of the baby, who is always looking for anything airway-sized to shove in her mouth, but I hadn’t considered that the kid who won’t even try pizza would eat something dangerous.

It had just been sitting on the counter next to his toothbrush, and that day, he decided it would make a good snack. I mean, it’s berry flavored, so can I blame him?

He likely hadn’t eaten very much when he came out to show me, and the worst outcome, according to the very nice poison control lady, was an upset stomach that could be alleviated with some calcium. He probably learned that he gets an extra glass of milk if he glugs toothpaste, but I learned that even verbal, somewhat logical children need to be kept away from potential poison. We need to remember that there are dangerous things our kids can get into at home too.

National Poison Prevention Week raises awareness about the dangers of poisoning and how to prevent it from happening to children in your home.

Children under 6 account for 44.2% of poison exposures (teens are 8.2% and 6- to 12-year-olds are 6.3%), according to 2018 data, and more than 90% of calls to poison control are about exposures in the home.

We moved into our rental house with a not-quite-mobile baby and a toddler, and babyproofing just fell way down our to-do list as we got settled. But I know I can’t watch them every second (hi bathroom breaks and endless laundry!), and that not-quite-mobile baby is now walking and climbing, so I am using this National Poison Prevention Week to get my house in order. Here are the tips I’m employing this week and hoping you’ll join me in using.

Lock up all medicine and chemicals. Since we’re in a rental, we don’t want to drill holes in all our cabinets, but there are latches that loop through handles or stick to the inside of cabinets to protect your kids without sacrificing your security deposit. And you don’t have to lock every cabinet in your home; just make sure all your medications and cleaners are in one of the locked ones, stick them way up high where you keep your liquor stash, or even purchase a special lockbox made for medications.

Be clear with older kids. Once your kids are a little more independent (and know how to get past child locks), it’s important they know the dangers of some of the things we keep in our houses. We might assume that kids will naturally learn not to eat certain things, but I think that whole Tide Pod Challenge thing proved otherwise. Explain to your kids how sick they could get if they touch or drink the things in the locked cabinets and that even medicine, which makes them better when used the right way, can hurt them if they take too much.

Don’t keep medicine in purses or backpacks. Especially if it’s not in the original, childproof container. How many times have you told a whiney kid to just check your bag for a snack? That’s not the snack you want them to find.

Double-check dosage charts. If your kid is sick, make sure you are giving the right dosage of medicine for their weight. I can’t remember why I just walked into the kitchen; why do I think I can remember how many milliliters of Tylenol my growing 1-year-old can have? Also, don’t measure medicine in the dark, even if that means annoying a sleepy kid with a little bit of light.

Don’t equate vitamins or medicine with candy. I have gummy vitamins easily accessible on the counter (moving them now!) that I have avoided calling “vitamins” for fear that my 3-year-old will refuse to eat them. But it’s important that he knows they aren’t food and that he can’t eat however many he wants.

Call Poison Control if you have any doubt. If you think your kid might have consumed something dangerous, even if you aren’t sure, just call 1-800-222-1222. They’re there to help you figure out the next steps. Even if that step is giving your kid exactly what they’re always begging for: another glass of milk.

Photography: Jessica Rockowitz Photography + Film


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