One child every two hours is going to the emergency room after coming in contact with a beauty product—and nail products are the most dangerous. Here's what parents need to know.

By Anna Halkidis
June 28, 2019
Illustrated Mom Holding Beauty Products
Credit: Anna Parini

There are obvious dangers around the house that parents try to keep their kids away from. Think hot stove and sharp knives. But new research shows parents also need to be extra careful about where they leave their cosmetic products.

More than 64,000 kids under 5 years of age were rushed to the emergency department between 2002 and 2016 for cosmetic-related injuries, according to a new study by researchers from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. That is about one child every two hours.

“We wanted to do this study because we were thinking that these products can be found in nearly every U.S. home and many of us use these products daily,” says Rebecca McAdams, MA, MPH, one of the study co-authors. And while cosmetic products aren’t harmful when used as instructed, the researchers wondered what happens to children who get their hands on them.

The results can be critical. The study, published this month in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, shows majority of children suffered from poisoning (mostly because of nail care products), while others swallowed items and experienced chemical burns (often due to hair care products). Kids were also injured when a product came into contact with their eyes.

Nail care products caused the majority of injuries (28.3 percent), followed by hair care (27 percent), skin care (25 percent), and fragrance products (12.7 percent). And children under 2 years old were more than twice as likely than older kids to be injured by personal care items.

McAdams also points out the results don’t account for every single injury within those years. The data came from National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which only documents injuries that were treated at emergency departments across the country. “Injuries treated at home, through calls to poison control centers, at pediatrician offices, or urgent care facilities, are not captured in our data set,” she says. “We do think there are more kids who are being injured from ingesting or coming into contact with a personal care product.”

How can parents keep kids safe from cosmetic products?

Luckily, there are simple steps parents can take to prevent their little ones from getting injured by any type of beauty product. Experts recommend parents avoid leaving these products out unattended, and to put them away immediately after use.

Making sure to store them properly is also imperative. McAdams says parents should take the same approach with cosmetics as they do with medications. "That means these products should be stored up away and out of sight of children. They should be stored in their original containers, in a cabinet that can be locked or latched," she says.

You may also want to put the number to poison control in your cell phone (1-800-222-1222). It's also not a bad idea to post it somewhere in the home just in case a babysitter is watching your little one or you can’t find your cell phone in a time of need.

“In the event that they do suspect that their child has gotten into one of these products, parents can get help immediately and won't be spending the precious time searching for a phone number,” explains McAdams.

Anna Halkidis is the features editor at Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.