Experts warn against 'spring cleaning' poison risk

Simple steps can keep kids safe inside and out

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DETROIT - I consider myself a careful mom.

I keep our household cleaners in a cabinet with a childproof lock so good, I have trouble opening it myself. But as I was recently reminded that's not enough.

It happened as I was reluctantly scrubbing cat puke off of the carpet, as cat owners are often required to do. As I reached for the carpet cleaner to spray some more on the stain, my hand grabbed the air instead. I looked over in confusion, wondering where the bottle had gone. I turned around just in time to see my almost 2-year-old son gleefully try to spray the bottle straight at his face.

I grabbed it in the nick of time. He cried. I could have cried.

It happened in an instant. A split second of inattention that could have resulted in a serious injury. I was horrified.

Our close call was top of mind as I read the new warning about the risks of child poisonings related to spring cleaning from the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

At this time of year when we're anxious to clean up inside and out, it's as important as ever to protect children from the many chemicals we'll use.

The hazards are all around -- from cleaning products, to yard fertilizer, windshield wiper fluid, grill cleaner, even medications leftover from last winter's illnesses.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives these tips for preventing accidents during spring cleaning:

  • Keep chemicals in their original bottles or containers. Do not use food containers such as cups, bottles, or jars to store chemicals such as cleaning solutions.
  • Turn on fans and open windows when using chemicals or household cleaners, and never sniff containers to see what is inside.
  • Wear protective clothing (gloves, long sleeves, long pants, socks, shoes) if you spray pesticides or other chemicals. Stay away from areas that have been sprayed until the spray has dried or for at least one hour.
  • Never mix household or chemical products together. Doing so can create a dangerous gas.
  • Be sure to read all labels before you get started.
  • Many household cleaners and chemicals can be poisonous when swallowed. Be sure to lock them up out of the reach and sight of children, preferably in a high cabinet.
  • If you're aiming to clear out your medicine cabinet, be sure to keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of your children while you're working.

In case of a poison emergency, call 800-222-1222 immediately. This national hotline connects you directly to your local poison center.

It can happen in an instant. Don't let it happen to your child.

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