It’s National Safety Month, let’s lead by example at home!
As COVID-19 emerged and families remained homebound, cleaning and disinfecting became a more frequent and rigorous task. Today, as restrictions ease and more families are on the go, cleaning habits and best practices are still prevalent. While cleaning and hygiene practices are critical for our health, it is equally as important that we clean and disinfect with safety top of mind.
According to the CDC, the influx of cleaning products in many homes in response to the COVID-19 outbreak brought about a significant increase in accidental exposures and child poisonings. Nationwide, calls to poison control centers related to cleaning and disinfecting products increased 20 percent in 2020 compared to the same time in 2019, with the majority of cases involving children age five and under.
As an emergency medicine PA and mother of two rambunctious young boys, I know how fast accidents can happen with little ones in the home. While broken bones and skinned knees are often an unavoidable part of childhood, there are simple steps we, as parents, can take to prevent accidents around the house. When I walked in on my 7- and 4-year-old children playing with cleaning supplies found under the sink, it was a terrifying wake-up call on the importance of safe storage for household products.
A recent survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) revealed one-third of Americans admit to storing their liquid laundry packets within sight or reach of children. Although the laundry room is an essential part of household routines, it can often go overlooked when child-proofing the home. ACI’s Packets Up! child safety campaign is dedicated to helping families prevent accidental exposures to cleaning supplies, including liquid laundry packets – and keeping these items safely stored is the key to prevention.
This National Safety Month, I’m sharing my story to help educate families on the importance of safe use and storage of common household cleaning products in homes with children. I urge parents to remember that health and safety go hand in hand. Take a moment to pause, look around the house, and take necessary steps to make your home safer.
Here are some safe habits and cleaning tips to incorporate into your home:
- Teach your kids safe cleaning habits by including them in household chores.
Make cleaning a family activity by getting kids involved in age-appropriate cleaning chores:
- Have them clear clutter so you can disinfect different areas of the home.
- Let them help sort and fold laundry.
- Teach them to wash their hands properly – with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Teach them what products they should not use or touch
- Store all batteries, medicines, cleaning products and liquid laundry packets up high, out of reach and out of sight.
From the garage to the laundry room, the best place to store medicines or liquid laundry packets is in an overhead cabinet secured with a child safety lock. If you don’t have a cabinet available, place the products (in their original packaging) into a larger bin with other laundry and household products and put it up high where those at risk won’t be able to see or access it.
- Immediately move laundry packets and cleaning products to their safe storage place upon arrival in your home.
When purchasing laundry packets and other household cleaners, have them bagged separately and then put them away – up high and out of sight and reach – as soon as you get home and unpack your groceries.
- Always keep cleaning products in their original container with labels intact.
These containers are designed to be child resistant and, in case of an emergency, have ingredients and poison control information clearly displayed on the label.
As our daily habits have changed in light of the pandemic, National Safety Month is a critical moment for us all to ensure safety is a top priority in our day-to-day routines. Make sure you are prepared in the event of an unintended exposure. For more safe storage tips, visit PacketsUp.com. If you think someone has been accidentally exposed to laundry packets or other household products, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 and seek immediate medical attention.
Katerina Dons, MMS, PA-C