MONDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The number of injuries to
young children caused by exposure to household cleaning products
have decreased almost by half since 1990, but roughly 12,000
children under the age of 6 are still being treated in U.S.
emergency rooms every year for these types of accidental
poisonings, a new study finds.
Bleach was the cleaning product most commonly associated with
injury (37.1 percent), and the most common type of storage
container involved was a spray bottle (40.1 percent). In fact,
although rates of injuries from bottles with caps and other types
of containers decreased during the study period, spray bottle
injury rates remained constant, the researchers reported.
"So many household products are sold in spray bottles these days, because for cleaning purposes they're really easy to use," said study author Lara B. McKenzie, a principal investigator at Nationwide Children's Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy. "But spray bottles don't generally come with child-resistant closures, so it's really easy for a child to just squeeze the trigger."
McKenzie added that young kids are often attracted to a cleaning
product's pretty label and colorful liquid, and may mistake it for
juice or vitamin water. "If you look at a lot of household cleaners
in bottles these days, it's actually pretty easy to mistake them
for sports drinks if you can't read the labels," added McKenzie,
who is also assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State
University. Similarly, to a young child, an abrasive cleanser may
look like a container of Parmesan cheese.
Researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital examined national
data on roughly 267,000 children aged 5 and under who were treated
in emergency rooms after injuries with household cleaning products
between 1990 and 2006. During this time period, 72 percent of the
injuries occurred in children between the ages of 1 and 3
The findings were published online Aug. 2 and will appear in the
September print issue of
To prevent accidental injuries from household products, the
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends storing poisonous
substances in locked cabinets and out of sight and reach of
children, buying products with child-resistant packaging, keeping
products in their original containers, and properly disposing of
leftover or unused products.
"This study just confirms how often these accidents still happen, how disruptive they can be to health, and how expensive they are to treat," said Dr. Robert Geller, medical director of the Georgia Poison Control Center in Atlanta. "If you consider that the average emergency room visit costs at least $1,000, you're looking at almost $12 million a year in health-care costs," he explained.
"Often a young child gets exposed to these kinds of products when someone is cleaning, and leaves a bottle open on the counter because they're in the middle of using it," said Geller, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. "So a good reminder is to always close the product completely after using it, even if you plan to open it again in a few minutes."
That scenario is almost exactly what happened to 1-year-old
Keegan Ensign, who was treated at Nationwide's emergency department
earlier this year. "It was one of the first nice days in May, and
we were all outside playing on the driveway," said Keegan's mother,
Tamara Ensign, 29, a mother of three in Lewis Center, Ohio. "I had
a bottle of dish soap out because the kids wanted to play car wash,
and I set it down on the pavement and turned my back for just a
second. When I turned back around, Keegan was holding the bottle
Although Keegan's mother didn't think he had swallowed very much
of the soap, she called poison control because he was coughing and
wheezing a lot. Concerned that he might have aspirated some of the
cleaner into his lungs, the poison control official advised Ensign
to take Keegan to the hospital.
Thankfully, doctors there determined that the toddler's lungs
were clear and his oxygen levels were fine, and he completely
recovered, but Ensign said the incident was a harsh wake-up call.
"Inside the house, I've always been good about keeping everything
in a locked cabinet, but because we were outside in a different
setting, it didn't cross my mind until it was too late."
McKenzie says if you don't want to keep spray bottles locked up,
you should at least turn the nozzle to the closed position, which
makes it a lot harder for a curious toddler to grab it and
Parents who suspect their child has come in contact with a
poison should immediately contact the Poison Center at
1-800-222-1222, which will direct callers to their local Poison
Center. If a child is unconscious, not breathing, or having
seizures, they should call 9-1-1.
For more on household product safety, go to the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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