Keep Safe from Poison this Holiday Season
From fertiliser to makeup and medicines, potentially poisonous items show up everywhere, especially throughout our homes.
Safety Tips for Children
With the holiday season upon us, children will have ample time to explore – ensure your child is safe from ingesting poisonous substances by following these simple preventative tips:
• Keep medicines (including herbal and homeopathic medications) and potentially dangerous household products locked away and out of sight and reach of children. Remember that children are curious and persistent, so even a high shelf is not safe and even items that seem harmless, such as mouthwash, can be extremely dangerous if ingested in large quantities by children.
• Check your purse for potential hazards such as medications or cosmetics and keep it out of reach of children.
• Make sure all products are in their original containers. Never store potentially harmful products in bottles, containers or cups used for food or drinks. Children might mistake it for cool drink.
• Never leave containers with medication, household chemicals or any hazardous substance open or unattended when children are present.
• Never throw bottles of medicine in the rubbish bin. Dispose of unwanted or left-over medication by returning them to your local pharmacist.
• Never tell a child that medication is sweets – this makes medication dangerously attractive at other times.
• Keep button batteries and magnets out of reach of children and discard used ones safely.
• Exercise extreme caution and read labels carefully when using store-bought pesticides.
• Always buy approved and legal products that are labelled – unlabelled products contain no information about the ingredients or manufacturers, thus placing users, children, pets and the environment at risk.
• Always keep the Western Cape Poison Centre’s number nearby (0861 555 777).
Should your child be displaying any of the following symptoms, he/she may be poisoned:
• Sweating and fever
• Eyes rolling back in the head
• Cannot walk
Safety Tips for Adults
Outdoor activities normally increase during the holiday season, leading to more incidents of poisoning – keep these tips handy at all times:
1) Snake Bites:
• Try to get a good description of the snake.
• Get the patient to a medical facility immediately. Phone ahead to notify them of the arrival of a snake bite victim.
• Immobilise the patient if possible and do not suck the bite area or apply a bandage. Bandages are only recommended in suspected neurotoxic bites (Mamba or Cape Cobra) when fastening a bandage firmly above the bite area can slow the spread of the venom to vital organs.
2) Scorpion Stings:
• When stung by a scorpion, contact the Poison Centre immediately.
• If a child is stung, get the patient to a medical facility immediately.
• To help minimise pain, apply crushed ice to the sting site.
3) Spider Bites:
• Very few spiders are potentially harmful to humans, but when bitten by a spider get the patient to a medical facility immediately. Anti-venom or antibiotics may be needed.
4) Bee Stings:
• When stung by a bee, remove the stinger immediately.
• Look for symptoms of an allergic reaction (swelling, itchiness and dicciculty swallowing or breathing). If symptoms are present, get the patient to a medical facility immediately.
• You can take an antihistamine.
• If no symptoms are present, wash the area and apply ice. You can take ibuprofen or paracetamol and apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
Contact the Western Cape Poison Centre on 0861 555 777 immediately if you suspect poisoning.
Treat all cases of poisoning as urgent – immediately take your child to a doctor or hospital, along with the following: the container; label; prescription, remaining tablets or the substance swallowed and whatever might help the doctor to identify and estimate the amount of poison taken.
• In 2014 the Western Cape Poison Centre received 6228 communications of which 5580 were cases of suspected or actual exposure to potentially poisonous substances. The other 648 were general enquiries.
• Most of the cases dealt with were due to accidental exposure (65.8% or 3589 cases).
• Children (0 – 14 years) were involved in 48% of all calls, adolescents (15 – 19 years) in 6% and adults (over 19 years) in 46% of exposures.
• Poisoning is most likely to happen to children aged 0 – 5 years old (39% of all calls or 2133 incidents).
• 95% of poisonings in children occur in and around their home.
• Most of the exposures in children were accidental (88%), whereas in adolescents, most were due to intentional exposure (85%).
• Calls were received from all nine provinces, as well as from other countries – particularly neighbouring countries (Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique).
Principal Communications Officer: Tygerberg Hospital
Tel: 021 938 5454
Principal Communications Officer: Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital
Tel: 021 658 5448