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Published on July 21, 2020

closeup of person cleaning table with disinfectant spray

Keeping a Clean (and Safe) House

Many people are working hard to keep their families and loved ones healthy during this pandemic. We are being more careful to wash our hands properly and sanitize our homes. All this increased sanitation and cleanliness can only be positive – right?

The truth is while bleach and disinfectants keep us healthier by killing germs, all this cleaning may have some unintentional effects. Poison control centers have seen a 20% increase in calls especially those related to disinfectants, hand sanitizer and bleach.

Why the Increase in Poisonings?

Well, one reason is probably accessibility. People are leaving these products out and using them more frequently. It is important to lock up bleach and other household cleaners. Make sure they are out of sight and reach for young children preferably in a locked cabinet. 

Another reason is more children are home with parents who may be busy working from home. Parents should make sure cleaning products are put away after using. Parents should also talk to older children who may be watching younger siblings about the importance of keeping cleaning products and poisons away from younger children who may not understand the difference between a container of apple juice and a container of floor cleaner.

Harmless or Not?

Parents should also remember to keep medications – even children’s vitamins – up out of children’s reach as young children often like to imitate parents and take medicine.

Hand sanitizer may seem pretty harmless. We see it almost everywhere and probably carry some with us all the time. While hand sanitizer is great for killing germs on our hands, it can actually be very dangerous when ingested by a small child. Most hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol which is a stronger concentration than most liquor. Often hand sanitizers are packaged in appealing ways with fun colors, smells and even glitter. To keep kids safe it is important to always supervise hand sanitizer use so they only use a small amount.

What If My Child Does Ingest Something?

Things to look for include a child who is acting strangely, a spilled or empty container, residue around or in the child’s mouth or on the teeth, and/or an unusual smell on child’s breath.

Call 911 right away if a child collapses, is unconscious, or has a seizure. If the child is not showing those symptoms stay calm. Have the child spit out anything in the mouth. Run your fingers around the inside of the mouth to remove any other poison residue. Do not induce vomiting unless told to do so by poison control or medical personnel.

Call the Poison Control number, 800-222-1222, right away if you suspect any poisoning.

Kids are naturally curious and all of us are trying to keep our families as healthy as possible, which is why it is important to be diligent in our prevention of poisoning in our homes. A little time and effort spent securing the poisons in our home and educating the kids in our lives can help keep us all safer.

By Patricia Bates, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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