Christmas is always a busy time for parents with presents to buy, meals to plan and family and friends to entertain. It is an especially joyous time for children. But with so much going on, Christmas can also be an especially hazardous time for young children when it comes to poisoning accidents. Distracted parents may leave cleaning products within reach of small hands, while guests may leave pills in handbags or counted out on bedside cabinets.
Every day 15 young children are admitted to hospital with suspected poisoning. Medicines are the most common cause of accidental poisoning, with everyday painkillers a frequent culprit. Cleaning products such as bleach, oven cleaner and detergent liquitabs are also common hazards. Yet many parents are unaware that safety tops are not child-proof.
The risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning peaks in the winter, often caused by unsafe central heating systems, gas cookers or gas fires. Every year 50 children are admitted to hospital from CO poisoning in the home. Children are at greater risk of serious damage or death from CO poisoning, as their bodies are smaller and weaker than those of an adult and therefore they can be overcome by the fumes quicker.
Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive, CAPT commented: “A frantic dash to casualty with a toddler who has swallowed something poisonous isn’t on anybody’s Christmas list. That’s why we want parents to be aware of the increased risks that come with friends and family visiting, changes in routine and a bit more chaos than usual. Follow our quick and easy safety tips to keep Christmas festive and young children safe from serious harm.”
Dr Joe Brierley, Consultant Paediatric Intensivist, Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “Christmas is for many a time of great joy, of family and togetherness with children spending time visiting relatives and friends. However, in homes that don’t normally have young children – and even those that do - just take 5 minutes on arrival for a quick safety check.”
Ask visitors to your home, such as grandparents, not to leave medicines in places where young children can find them, for example in handbags on the floor or counted out on bedside cabinets.
Remember that safety tops slow young children down but are not child-proof.
Clear away any bottles of alcohol and the last dregs of drinks left in glasses, as even small amounts of alcohol can poison young children.
If you are staying away from home, check to see where the household cleaners are. If they’re next to the toilet or under the sink, move them out of reach and sight of young children.
Be especially wary of liquitabs. They are bright and attractive to young children who can mistake them for sweets.
Buy a carbon monoxide alarm for any room with a flame-burning appliance such as a gas boiler, gas cooker, gas fire or an open fire.
For more practical advice on poison prevention go to the Child Accident Prevention Trust’s website www.capt.org.uk.
For genuine and urgent out-of-hours queries call switchboard on 020 7405 9200.
Notes to Editors
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof.
With the UCL Institute of Child Health, we are the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US and play a key role in training children’s health specialists for the future.
Our charity needs to raise £50 million every year to help rebuild and refurbish Great Ormond Street Hospital, buy vital equipment and fund pioneering research. With your help we provide world class care to our very ill children and their families.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) is the UK’s leading charity working to reduce the number of children and young people killed, disabled or seriously injured in accidents, without ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’. Further information about CAPT is available at www.capt.org.uk.