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Do you live in a Haunted House? That might not be candy…

October 10, 2019

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By Dena Pepple, R.N. for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group.

We’re not far from Halloween… Are there monsters under your bed or ghosts in your closets? Do you hear creaks and noises in the night? Are you afraid to go to the basement alone? Maybe, you live in a haunted house!

Most of you are laughing or rolling your eyes right about now, but I’m here to tell you that your house may very well be haunted and those dangers are lurking before your very eyes. How do I know this? Unfortunately, it’s all in the numbers.

The National Safety Council says more than a third of child injuries and deaths happen at home. Every year, 3.4 million children are injured unintentionally in the home. About 2,000 of these children (age 14 and under) die as a result. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, every 17 minutes an injury from a home furnishing tip-over occurs. The National Safety Council also states that medications are the leading cause of child poisoning.

The causes of these unintentional injuries include burns, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls and poisoning.

Poison and Candy Look AlikesEvery cause is equally important and must be addressed in every home where children live or visit. The following web sites are overflowing with great information, handouts, education, interactive games, videos, safety checklists, and more:

Poison Look-alikes

One of the causes of unintentional home injuries that I want to discuss in more detail during this Halloween season are poison look-alikes.

I recently received a pamphlet from the Missouri Poison Center (PDF) that had some eye-catching and disturbing pictures of these poison look-alikes. Rat poison pellets look like Nerds candy. Nicotine gum and Dentyne gum come in similar little white squares. Some cleaning solutions and Gatorade have the same purple color. Gummy bears can be candy, vitamins, or even CBD infused. Of course, we all know the old joke of x-lax and chocolates.

Can children tell the difference?

We adults can see or read what the look-alikes really are, but our children may not be able to tell the difference.

In 2017, the Poison Control Centers in the United States received 2.12 million phone calls for human poison exposure. They state peak poison frequency occurs between one and two years of age, and 45% of poison exposures occur in children under the age of 6 years.

So, what can you do?

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF REACH, AND LOCKED UP should be your mantra for all medications and other potentially hazardous materials in your home. Keep all medicines and products in their original containers.

Be clear with your children that candy is candy and medicine is medicine.  Do not tell your children medicine is candy so they will be more inclined to swallow. As you are thinking about trick-or-treating and candy bags, look and see what else could be on that look-alike list. Keep the Missouri Poison Center phone number in a prominent place at home and in your cell phone. Most importantly, if you even suspect a poisonous ingestion CALL, CALL, CALL the poison center number!

Missouri Poison Center Phone Number: 1-800-222-1222

Tip-over Injuries

There is another safety issue hidden in plain sight in our homes. Our home furnishings can cause tip-over injuries. 195 deaths were caused by furniture tip-over accidents between 2000 and 2016. Sadly, from 2015 to 2016 the number of tip-over accidents increased by 33%, raising the total number of deaths to 26 per year. ER visits from tip-over accidents are estimated at >30,000 between 2014 and 2016.

The fix here is the use of furniture straps on every potential tip-over furnishing.

Dressers, televisions, bookcases, and any other tip prone furniture should be securely attached to the wall. These straps can be found online at many stores (Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Lowes, and more).

Charlie’s House

Charlie's House LogoYou can also get these straps for free at Charlie’s House.

Charlie’s House is a non-profit organization started here in Kansas City, in memory of a beautiful little boy named Charlie. Charlie died in his home in a dresser tip-over accident. They educate on home safety and are in the process of building a real safety house to better educate parents about these safety issues, and ultimately save lives.    They also offer other home safety devices such as cord covers, drawer latches, outlet covers, and more.

Thirty-two years ago I child proofed my home for the first time.

We read about home safety advice, put up gates, attached drawer locks, had poison control numbers ready, and used a “real” car seat to bring our baby home. We were ready to keep our kiddo safe… or so we thought.

That baby (my daughter) is now having her own babies and childproofing her own home. She makes me look like a rookie. She has multiple gates, doorknob grips everywhere, soft furniture corner covers, a locked medicine box, furniture straps, cabinet locks, and more. I teased her that her house was almost grandma proof! But she did it right and knows that it’s an ongoing, evolving and everyday process. I am proud of her and her vigilance to protect her children.

As our family fun month of October continues, enjoy the cooler weather, school activities, pumpkin spice everything, and of course Halloween candy and parties. Have fun with your scary costumes and haunted houses. But don’t forget the scares in your own “Haunted House”.  Be prepared, stay alert, use the resources listed, and protect your little goblins.

Let’s keep the haunted houses in Halloween where they belong!