Community Story: Safe Storage is Key in Poison Prevention
Grandparents regularly visit their grandchildren, and in some families, they are the primary caregivers. Mosella is a loving grandma and has been the legal guardian of her five-year old grandson, Ethan, since he was 10-months old. Ethan is an adventurous child that loves to climb, explore, and help his grandma with household chores.
While doing these chores, Mosella sometimes pauses to take her daily medication. She has always swallowed medication in Ethan’s presence and never questioned or feared for his safety. But Ethan has grown older. He moves faster and his curiosity is blossoming.
On this day, before Mosella knew it, Ethan grabbed her medicine bottle from the kitchen counter and downed the pills. And she had no idea how many. That’s when Mosella thought to call the Poison Help hotline. Within seconds, Mosella was connected to Cindy, a registered nurse and Certified Specialist in Poison Information (CSPI).
Cindy asked a few initial questions to assess the severity of the potential poisoning. “The grandmother was unsure of what happened,” Cindy says. “She remembered closing the medicine bottle before leaving it on the counter and was confused about how a child of Ethan’s age could remove the bottle top.” The specialist utilized her clinical experience and an expansive poison database to identify the brand of medication and its toxicity.
Luckily, Ethan was not in harm’s way and he would not require a visit to the emergency room. “It took a few minutes to completely assure his grandma that the medication was non-toxic, and that he would be okay,” Cindy says. Although Ethan did not experience an adverse reaction from his grandma’s medicine, each case is different. Children react differently based on their weight and size and the degree of toxicity.
While Mosella was on the line, Cindy provided tips on preventing future incidents. Cindy first recommended that the grandmother store her medication out of reach rather than on the kitchen counter. The specialist also encouraged her to install cabinet locks or purchase a medicine lock box to conceal medication and other toxic products.
“No one can guarantee that Ethan won’t try this again,” Cindy says. “But adults – the caregivers, aunts, uncles, friends, and poison specialists – can do our parts to keep children safe and away from harmful substances.”
Brittaney Hall is the Director of Community Outreach at the Tennessee Poison Center. As part of her outreach, she teaches families about the dangers of mimicking. “Children learn by doing, and if they see you swallow medication, they’ll want to as well.” Many prescription medications and harmful substances are brightly colored and resemble candy. Pills are small and easy for a child to hold and swallow. Brittany warns that “caregivers should never call their medication candy or take medication in front of children.”
She also encourages caregivers to store the Poison Help hotline number (1-880-222-1222) in their phones just in case an accidental exposure happens and a child ingests medication or other toxic items. The hotline also accepts poison prevention calls.
“Registered nurses, pharmacists, and physicians staff the Poison Help hotline and are available 24 hours a day, every day of the week,” Brittaney says. “We understand that even with the best of intentions, life happens. So, we want the community to know we are here for you.”
Visit tnpoisoncenter.org for poison prevention tips and resources.
Check out more stories from our communities at unitedtoact.org/uwwc.