According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, more than 1 million calls to the poison hotline were made in 2015 for kids under the age of 6, and the enticing culprits include medicines (both OTC and prescription), liquids like window cleaner, and cosmetics. Swallowing some products might only make a child vomit, but eating others could have more serious consequences, says Sam Wang, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine and toxicology specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, in Aurora. If you think your child ingested something that could be harmful, call Poison Control at 800-222- 1222 (put that number in your phone!). Keep all these types of items out of reach.
Common pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antihistamines, and cold meds can look like small candies. A child-resistant cap or packaging doesn’t always make a product childproof. With enough persistence, inquisitive kids can find a way in. Keep all medication in its original container, stored up and away in a locked receptacle that your child can’t access (add a safety lock to your medicine cabinet too). And whenever you need to give your child meds, resist the urge to coax her by saying, “It tastes just like candy!”
Liquid cleaning solutions and antifreeze often have bright colors, sweet scents, and pictures of fruit on the label, so they look like juice to kids. Similarly, laundry-detergent pods resemble gummy candy. “Swallowing a mouthful of cleaner will probably make your child vomit, and she can usually be watched at home after you’ve rinsed her skin and had her drink water. But never hesitate to call poison control,” says Pela Soto, Pharm.D., a certified specialist in poison information at the National Capital Poison Center. A kid who bites into a laundry pod or ingests antifreeze may need to go to the E.R. Even though “natural” cleaners may be less toxic, they’ll still cause stomach irritation if eaten, so always store any type of household cleaning product at the back of a cabinet secured with a child-resistant lock.
Rates of accidental marijuana exposure are on the rise in states where the drug is now legal. But edibles—marijuana-infused confections that can look like a brownie, a cookie, or gummy candy—pose a unique problem because they’re actually food. “A child or a caregiver won’t notice anything’s wrong until after it’s eaten,” says Dr. Wang. What’s worse, the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol in each edible may vary; a small child could ingest a large amount, which could lead to severe symptoms. Certain states like Colorado have banned gummy marijuana edibles shaped like animals, humans, or fruits and require manufacturers to display potency information on the labels. Still, be extra cautious, and store edibles where your kids can’t access them.