Parents should keep these items away from small children.
Detergent packets may have made headlines for being a potential child-poisoning hazard, but they aren’t the only household item that can endanger kids. A new study finds that shampoo, makeup, perfume, and nail polish are common dangers, too.
Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that a child is sent to the hospital every two hours as a result of exposure to a personal care product. They examined records from 64,686 children younger than 5 who were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries related to personal care products from 2002 through 2016.
Most injuries were a result of a child swallowing the product, which occurred in 75.7 percent of cases. Another 19.3 percent of injuries happened when a product contacted a child’s skin or eyes. The exposures led to 86.2 percent of kids being poisoned and 13.8 percent experiencing chemical burns.
Which personal care items topped the list? Nail care products made up 28.3 percent of injuries, while hair care items allotted for 27 percent. Skin care products accounted for 25 percent of injuries, and fragrances were responsible for 12.7 percent of injuries.
Nail polish remover, specifically, caused the most number of visits to the emergency room. Children exposed to hair relaxers or perm solutions were 1.48 times as likely to be hurt via contact, 2.68 times likely to experience a chemical burn and 3.36 times as likely to be hospitalized compared with patients exposed to the other products studied.
Almost 60 percent of the injuries happened to children younger than 2 years of age, the authors noted.
Some items become a potential hazard because a parent forgets to put it away after use. The other problem is that some people don’t think a certain item needs to be kept away from children.
The bigger problem is more likely to be that parents don’t think letting kids have access to some of the items could cause any trouble to begin with, noted Dr. Marcel J. Casavant, chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center.
“For the first two years after children start to walk, they’re most likely to get into things that result in a call to the poison center,” Casavant explained.
Once they turn 3 the risk falls a bit, and it drops off quite a bit by the time they turn 7. At ages 7 and 8 years, however, there are still some children who like to explore and who haven’t yet learned the world can be dangerous.
Also, a lot of the packaging is designed to be visually appealing — something that kids can be susceptible to, he said.
While Casavant thinks most parents know if they have a child who may need more protection, some things — gasoline and other hydrocarbons, nicotine products, medications, and drugs — are a few items that children should never be allowed to have access to.
“They’re just so dangerous and kids have no reasons to be handling these,” Casavant said.
David C. Schwebel, PhD, a psychology professor at The University of Alabama at Birmingham who researches injury prevention to children and young adults, added that houseplants, lawn and garden products, and alcohol, are other hazards.
Even though a child can read doesn’t mean parents should relax. While being able to read a label could help a child discern if something is toxic, it may not prevent injury.
“Imagine a cleaning fluid with a picture of an orange and a label that says ‘orange-scented cleanser.’ The child might be able to read ‘orange,’ and see the picture of the orange, and mistake it for something safe to drink because the words ‘scented’ and ‘cleanser’ are harder to read,” Schwebel explained. “So, the simple ability to read is not always enough [to protect the child from injury].”
Similarly, the ability to read warning labels is only helpful if the labels are read, Schwebel said.
“Many adults don’t bother to read warning labels, so I don’t think we can expect children to do so,” he added.
Most of the products mentioned in the study are stored in easy-to-reach places and don’t come in child-resistant containers.
“Because these products are currently not required to have child-resistant packaging, it is important for parents to put them away immediately after use and store them safely — up, away, and out of sight — preferably in a cabinet or closet with a lock or a latch,” Rebecca McAdams, co-author of the study and senior research associate in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s, said in a statement.
In addition to keeping items away and out of sight, researchers suggest these safety tips:
- Put any personal care products away immediately after use, and don’t leave them unattended during use.
- Keep items in their original containers.
- Start safer storage and childproofing while children are babies.
- Keep the National Capital Poison Center helpline (1-800-222-1222) number handy.