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Parents are always concerned about protecting their children from bullies, strangers and violence, but one of the biggest threats to a child’s well-being can be found right at home.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 1.2 million possible poisonings of children under age 5 were reported in 2009. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that about 30 U.S. children die from poisoning each year.

March 16-22 is National Poison Prevention Prevention Week. Here are some helpful strategies to help keep your little ones safe by poison-proofing your home.

Study Your Home…From A Child’s Point of View

The most effective way to ensure your child’s safety is to take a child’s-eye view of your home. Get down on the floor and take a look see how things look from a little one’s point of view. This will help you figure out which cupboards, drawers, and other spaces your child might be tempted to explore.

Lock Up Poisons

Carefully lock up and/or put away every potential poison, including cleaning products, bug sprays, medicines, and vitamins. Use gates to limit your child’s access to areas of your home that might contain dangerous items. Be sure to toss old or outdated medications – but be sure not to flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain unless otherwise noted on the bottle, as this could contaminate your water supply. If you’re not sure how to safely dispose of medication, call the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hotline at (800) 463-6332.

Don’t forget…even some houseplants can be harmful if ingested, so be sure to talk with your doctor about plants that are safe and unsafe for children to be around.

Protect Your Home From Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas produced by malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, ovens, stoves, gas dryers, and emergency generators. Although you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, carbon monoxide gas can be deadly.

To protect your family, install a carbon monoxide detector in every sleeping area in your home, including your child’s room. Check the batteries every spring and fall when you change your clocks. If the alarm goes off, leave your home immediately and call 911 or the local emergency number.

Don’t Forget About Lead…

Breathing lead dust or fumes or swallowing anything with lead in it can give a child lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, kidney disease, brain damage, delayed growth, and other problems.

If you live in a building constructed before 1978, it may contain lead paint. Lead paint is especially dangerous to your child if it’s flaking or peeling. Lead can also be found in tap water from older pipes that are lined or soldered with lead. If your home was built before 1978, or if there’s any other risk of lead exposure, talk to the doctor about getting your child’s blood tested for lead.

If there’s exposed or deteriorating lead paint in your home, have a licensed professional either remove it completely or cover it with an approved sealant. Until the lead can be removed, wash your child’s hands and face, as well as his toys, often to reduce his exposure to lead-contaminated dust. For information on how to get a paint sample analyzed, visit the National Lead Information Center’s website or call (800) 424-5323.

Don’t Forget Visitors…

As careful as you are, you can’t guarantee that people visiting your home have been as careful. Prescription medications, and even makeup, can be dangerous to small children, so be sure to keep visitors’ purses and bags out of your children’s reach.

…Or Grandparents

In a new report recently released by Safe Kids Worldwide, 28% grandparents said they keep their meds in easy-to-open containers, and of those 42% say they keep the medications in places like kitchen and bathroom counters, tables and shelves. This news comes amid concerns about the level of child medication poisonings that send kids to the emergency room. The group surveyed 1,000 grandparents ages 50 and older who watched their grandchildren under the age of 5 on a daily basis at least once a month. The report looked at how grandparents store their medications and those of the children they watch. In the survey, 74% of grandparents reported taking medication every day, suggesting that children have an increasing chance of coming into contact with medications.

Be Prepared For Emergencies

  • Keep the number for the national poison control center – (800) 222-1222 in the United States – and your local emergency numbers close to every phone.
  • Program emergency numbers into your home phones and cell phone. Keep a list of these numbers close to each phone in your home and give the list to all caregivers.
  • Have first-aid supplies handy. Make sure babysitters and other caregivers know where to find these supplies in your home and how to respond in an emergency.