Interviewer: Poison prevention strategies for parents whose kids just started crawling, walking or climbing.
Sherrie Pace is a health educator for the Utah Poison Control Center.
Interviewer: You broke out these three segments. Why?
Sherrie: I did because development kind of changes through those three areas. With the crawlers, they're super excited to get moving. They've been looking around and seeing all these things that they want to explore for a long time and all of a sudden, they can move.
Interviewer: Yes. So before they can move, do you really have to worry that much as far as poison?
Sherrie: Well, it's always good to make sure older sibling aren't getting anything in their way. And making sure you're correctly dosing if there's medication to be given. Those are typically the infant top poisonings.
Interviewer: What should you do to protect crawlers?
Sherrie: They can reach things on low shelves, low cupboards, low drawers, anything that's left on the floor. Kind of think of it from a child's point of view as you look around your home. And then, you'll want to make sure that you put things up and out of reach of those little crawlers and then use child resistant closures because when they get a hold of medicine bottles, believe it or not, even little, tiny people can sometimes get those open.
Interviewer: And they're persistent. And I think if nothing else, that's in their favor. They will sit there and work on it for hours.
Sherrie: Putting locks on the cupboards and below cupboards. Keeping things out of their little reach.
Interviewer: Are locks are pretty effective? I've gone to other people's houses and those locks sometimes, I feel like I didn't realize it was there. I pull the door and I get it open pretty easily.
Sherrie: It's a deterrent, but nothing is childproof. It's child-resistant so it gives you a little more time to catch them in the act.
Interviewer: I even thought, like if you're cleaning around the house and you leave your cleaners out on the floor, you might not think of that. But, quickly, somebody could get into that, a little crawler.
Sherrie: It just takes a couple of seconds. and that's one of the biggest problems with the kids getting into the things, is it happens a lot at times and when things are out and in use. Even if we're good about putting things up high, when we're actually cleaning the floor and we've got that cleaner out and we're distracted for a split second, it can happen.
Interviewer: So think like a crawler. Get down on your hand and knees and crawl around and see what you see. Let's talk about walkers.
Sherrie: Walkers. The peak age for poisoning is 18 months. And that's usually new little walkers. They can reach higher. They actually on their tippy toes can reach pretty deep onto a counter top. And that's something where we see some difficulty. They can certainly get to higher cupboards, higher drawers than crawlers. So you have to think of it from their perspective as well. But they have a little more breach than those crawlers did.
Interviewer: The stuff on the bathroom counter, for example, nail polishes. Is toothpaste bad?
Sherrie: Toothpaste, we get a lot of calls on toothpaste. Certainly, call us if that happens because you never know what's in that. If there's fluoride in it, there could be more problems. It's just something to call us about.
Interviewer: For walkers, you've got to not only think like a crawler but like a walker and a reacher.
Sherrie: A reacher, absolutely.
Interviewer: Are there any other tips you have for the walkers?
Sherrie: Yes. Definitely with older siblings, that can be a problem too. I've definitely heard stories where an older sibling leaves something on the counter, doesn't think their little toddler sibling can get it and they do.
Interviewer: The next one: climbers and, obviously, extending the reach a little bit.
Sherrie: Right. So nothing's off limits at this age.
Interviewer: How old is a climber, generally?
Sherrie: Honestly, that depends. Some kids never really are big climbers and others, they are just so motivated to get whatever they can see. So they are scrambling up drawers, stepping drawer to drawer like stairs, getting up on counter tops in high cupboards. And if you have the climber, it's very challenging.
Interviewer: What do you do what are some tips for that?
Sherrie: I would recommend keeping especially medications locked up. Under kind of lock and key.
Interviewer: That sounds really extreme. Do people really do that?
Sherrie: It's an extreme, but it's not a bad idea, especially with your medications.
Interviewer: Especially, if you have some of those powerful painkillers. Those can be deadly.
Sherrie: They can be particularly problematic. But definitely using the child-resistant closures that can slow them down and the child protective locks that can slow them down. All those things help a little bit to catch them in the act. And obviously, adult supervision, you can't ever say enough about that.
Interviewer: It sounds like a lot of these strategies are more about slowing somebody down than really maybe getting something completely out of reach. Or is it a little bit of both?
Sherrie: Well, it's a little bit of both. When things are out of sight too, that's something where the kids aren't as enticed to get something. So a really high shelf and a cupboard with the door closed, they're less likely to be going for something that they can't see.
Biggest Poisoning Danger for Kids Under Six
Interviewer: All right. When does it get better? At what point do you not have to worry quite so much that your child might get into something particularly bad?
Sherrie: Our statistics show that the majority of our calls are for kids under age six. We really recommend a lot of these strategies for under age six just because cognitively, their functioning, they can't read yet. It's difficult for them to maybe distinguish between things that are safe and things that aren't. And everything goes in the mouth when you're a little kid. It's how they explore. It's always a good idea to keep things up and out of reach.
Interviewer: After six, not quite as bad, but still probably, you need to keep an eye on things.
Sherrie: You still need to be cautious.
Contact Utah Poison Control First. It's Free and More Reliable than searching the Internet
Sherrie: Give us a call if you need us. That's what we're there for. We know that things happen. We don't judge you. We understand things can go wrong and that's why we're there. The number is 800-222-1212.
updated: December 9, 2021
originally published: March 20, 2016
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