Children are known to be very curious, especially around the house, which could put them in potentially dangerous situations such as accidental poisoning.
Approximately 90 percent of accidental poisonings worldwide occur within the home environment, and the majority of such cases seen in Netcare emergency departments involve babies and very young children who have ingested something that could be harmful – Rene Grobler, Netcare’s national quality and systems manager for trauma and emergency.
Rene went on to add that the average age of patients treated for accidental poisoning (excluding medicine dosage mistakes and intentional overdose) is just one-year-old, according to Medibank statistics which are a record of patients attended to at Netcare hospitals emergency departments nationally since 2011.
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“At this young age, babies start crawling around or using walking rings and it is surprising how quickly they can reach into unsecured cupboards or a traveller’s suitcase to access cleaning products, medicines, garden products such as pesticides, weed killers and fertiliser, or any number of potentially toxic substances,” said Rene.
Toddlers aged two to three were involved in 27 percent of accidental poisonings recorded, while another 13 percent were aged three and four years old.
“Young children in these age groups are exploring the world with great curiosity and very little understanding of the dangers of putting things in their mouths,” she explained.
To help prevent accidental poisoning, Netcare’s Trauma Division has issued the following safety tips:
• Store any potentially poisonous or toxic items in cupboards with safety locks, and ensure that the cupboards are locked at all times. This includes medicines, household chemicals and cleaning products, alcohol, gardening pesticides and many other common household items.
• Keep handbags, shopping bags and hand sanitiser safely out of reach
. • Make sure that visiting guests’ medicines are stored out of reach and sight of children.
• Be sure to dispose of unused medicines safely, preferably by handing them in to a pharmacy.
• Choose child-resistant medication packaging, wherever possible.
• Never store anything that is not meant for human consumption in packaging associated with food and drink. Be sure to keep cleaning products in their original packaging.
• Never suggest to a child that medicines are “sweets” or “cooldrink”.
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“If you have any reason to suspect accidental poisoning, do not wait for symptoms to develop, but rather seek medical care immediately,” said Mande Toubkin, general manager: emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment at Netcare.
Many people still mistakenly believe that in cases of accidental poisoning, the person should be encouraged to vomit in order to expel the substance. In many cases, this course of action may actually cause the person further harm, and therefore expert medical advice must be sought immediately.
If you suspect accidental poisoning, try to identify what poison may have been taken, and if possible establish the quantity or dose that has been consumed because these are important details for the medical professionals to determine the treatment required.
“When performing first aid on a child or adult who may have been poisoned, it is very important to avoid touching, tasting or breathing in the poison yourself. If the poison has been breathed in, move the person to a well ventilated area so that they can breathe fresh air,” added Mande. Regardless of whether or not you have children at home, it will be to your own benefit to develop these safer habits to prevent accidental poisoning at home.
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