August 22, 2016
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Keep Kids Safe during Back-to-School Season
Illinois Poison Center Offers Tips to Avoid Injury
As families ease back into their school routines after a summer of barbecues, road trips and beach days, the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) reminds everyone to take precautions against poison exposures, both in and out of school.
“The beginning of the school year is an exciting and hectic time for parents and kids alike,” says Michael Wahl, MD, Medical Director, IPC. “But different schedules, new school supplies and changing environments make it especially important to keep an eye out for potential health risks at this time of year.”
The IPC periodically receives calls on routine medicine and other supplies that families use every day, and the beginning of the school year can increase the opportunity for mishaps. In 2015 alone, the IPC handled 1,605 cases in which there was an error in medication administration in children aged five and under. Likewise, 90 callers reported hand sanitizer exposure in children in 2015; 16 of those incidents happened in schools.
“With the return of textbooks, bus schedules and extracurricular activities, students—and their parents—have enough on their plates without adding injury to the mix,” says Jay Bhatt, DO, MPH, MPA, FACP, Chief Health Officer, Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which administers the IPC. “Parents can help their children succeed this year by keeping an eye out for both their physical and emotional wellbeing.”
To help families prevent exposure to potentially harmful substances, the IPC offers the following tips:
School and Art Supplies
Most school and art supplies are minimally toxic, and many nontoxic products are available. Parents and teachers can help students be as safe as possible when handling supplies by teaching them to:
• Read labels carefully;
• Follow directions for safe use and disposal;
• Refrain from putting choking hazards, including small arts and crafts items, in their mouths;
• Clean up tables, desks and counters appropriately; and
• Refrain from eating or drinking while using art products.
When used correctly, hand sanitizer can kill germs that cause illness, so parents and teachers should review good hygiene practices with children to help prevent the spread of infection. However, due to its high alcohol content, hand sanitizer can cause drowsiness, vomiting and intoxication if ingested. In these cases, call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222. Avoid misuse and unintentional ingestion by:
• Supervising children when they use it;
• Teaching children to apply a dime-sized amount to dry hands and rub hands together until they’re completely dry;
• Keeping hand sanitizer out of the eyes, as many cases received by the IPC involve ocular exposure; and
• Washing hands with soap and water instead of hand sanitizer, when possible.
Lunch Box Preparation
In order to ensure your children’s lunches are safe, the IPC advises parents to:
• Wash hands thoroughly before preparing lunch boxes;
• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold with insulated containers when packing lunch boxes; and
• Wash all fruits and vegetables.
The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to review medication safety and adjust family routines. New, hectic schedules can lead both adults and kids to make mistakes. To avoid the “double-dose dilemma,” “morning medication mix-up” and other pharmaceutical flubs, parents and caregivers can:
• Use a medication chart to track each child’s dosage and by whom the medicine is given;
• Tie medicine time to a specific activity, like brushing teeth;
• Consider using a pill/medication reminder app on a smartphone or other mobile device;
• Use a pillbox with days of the week and time of day to assist with proper administration of medications (Exercise extra caution with pillboxes, as they are not child resistant);
• Carefully read and follow directions and warnings on all labels before taking or giving your children medicine; and
• Teach your children to never take other people's medications.
Lastly, parents should talk to their children to make sure they inform their teachers (or school nurse) when they feel ill or are exposed to potentially dangerous items in school.
For more information on safety at school and in the home, visit the IPC’s Resource Center.
IPC experts are available to provide information and treatment advice 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, including holidays. If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, please call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222. The call is free and confidential. For more information, visit the IPC’s website: http://illinoispoisoncenter.org.
The Illinois Poison Center is a nonprofit health service that provides the people of Illinois with comprehensive and trusted information and treatment advice on potentially harmful substances via a free, confidential 24-hour helpline staffed by specially trained physicians, nurses and pharmacists.