There are ants in the house again, so you get out the spray to target problem spots in the kitchen. Meanwhile, in the basement, you’ve set out bait to tempt the mouse you heard scurrying around. On the porch is a big can of bug spray to fend off mosquitoes when the family is outside. Upstairs, on the bathroom counter, is a bottle of lotion to treat your child’s head lice.
You may not think twice about keeping these pesticides in and around your home. But you should stop and consider where and how you store and use them.
A pesticide is a substance designed to kill pests – usually insects and rodents. Sprays, powders, liquids, or bait used for this purpose are pesticides. You might be surprised to learn that even certain germ-destroying cleaners are considered pesticides because they kill bacteria (a type of “pest”).
But pesticides aren’t just harmful to the critters they’re designed to kill. They can also cause serious health problems if accidentally swallowed or in some cases simply come in contact with the skin. Babies and children are especially at risk for pesticide poisoning. They crawl and play close to the ground, where the chemicals are often applied or stored.
How to protect your family
Thousands of children are exposed to dangerous pesticides every year and require treatment. Here are some tips for reducing the risk in your own home:
- Lock them up. Store hazardous substances in a cabinet high above the level a child can reach. Keeping them under lock and key is even safer.
- Keep the original containers. Do not transfer pesticides or other chemicals into containers that were previously used for other things, especially food or drinks.
- Reseal containers after use. Even if you are stepping away for just a moment, replace all child-resistant lids and place them back on a high shelf and locked cabinet.
- Read all product instructions. Pay close attention to whether you need to wait a certain amount of time before letting children or pets back in the treated area.
- Get down on their level. The best way to identify potential hazards is to look at the world through a child’s eyes – on your hands and knees.
- Educate your kids. Teach children that pesticides – even seemingly mild ones like insect repellant – are harmful. Make sure kids know to leave these items alone if they come across them. Also remind them to alert an adult if they find poisons left out in the open.
- Educate caregivers, too. Babysitters should also be aware of the potential dangers and warning signs of poisoning. Post the number for Poison Control near the phone.
Know the warning signs
A child who has been poisoned by pesticides may have symptoms similar to the flu, such as headache, dizziness, and weakness. If you suspect your child has been exposed to a dangerous substance, call the Poison Control Center (603-2615 3333) at and seek emergency medical help right away.
(Source: MyOptumHealth, July 2011)