Parkland Medical Center - January 10, 2020

Babyproofing is typically pretty high on every new parents’ to-do list. We lock up our medications, our household cleaners and our fancy steak knives. As kids get older and we teach them about the dangers of these products, the locks come off. Hidden in plain sight, however, are other household items so ordinary that we may not give them a second thought. But they’re sending kids to the ER every two hours, a 2019 report shows. You probably have them scattered around your house, in your gym bag and in your purse. They include personal care items such as hair care, nail care, fragrance and skin care.

The 15-year study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy found that 64,686 children under the age of 5 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries related to personal care products between 2002 and 2016. That equates to about one child every two hours, or 12 kids a day. The study, published in Clinical Pediatrics, identified the items that caused the most injuries and how the injuries occurred.

The most common personal care products to injure children include:

  • Nail care (28%)
  • Hair care (27%)
  • Skin care and makeup (25%)
  • Fragrance (13%)

Nail polish remover was the single item responsible for sending the most kids to the ER (17%), while hair care products such as hair relaxers and permanent solutions were to blame for 52% of the more serious injuries that required hospitalization.

The most common ways children are injured by personal care items:

  • 76% swallowed the product
  • 19% got the product in their eyes or on their skin

These ingestions and exposures caused 86% of the children to be treated for poisoning and 14% to suffer from chemical burns.

How to keep kids out of your stuff and out of the ER

It’s not surprising that kids too young to read are mistaking lotions and gels for yummy food and drinks. It seems as if every product is now available in a fruity or baked goods scent and in every color of the candy-coated rainbow. It’s why kids this age will eat laundry pods and hand sanitizer gel—they’re colorful and pretty and they smell delicious.

They’re also often easy to reach and unprotected by child-proof caps.

With that in mind, here are some tips to keep kids away from these potentially dangerous items.

  • Consider using unscented/uncolored versions of your favorite personal care items and household cleaning products until kids are older; this can also help avoid allergic reactions
  • Place products out of reach and out of sight—a locked cabinet is best
  • Never leave products out and unattended; store them immediately after use
  • Get in the habit of safe storage before kids are mobile; nearly 60% of the injured children in the study were under 2 years of age
  • Store products in their original containers for identification purposes
  • Keep the number to Poison Control in your contacts and available for sitters: (800) 222-1222; you can also text POISON to 484848 and receive contact information on your smartphone

Signs and symptoms of poisoning and chemical burns

Children can become poisoned or burned from ingesting, breathing or coming into direct contact with a wide variety of toxic and everyday substances. Symptoms may resemble other conditions, including a seizure. While an open bottle of shampoo or nail polish remover near a child having difficulty is a pretty clear indicator (and why you should leave products in their original containers), there are other signs to look for.

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash or burns around the mouth and lips
  • Burns, stains and odors, such as breath or clothing that smells like chemicals

If your child is having any symptoms of poisoning, call 911 immediately. Always call 911 if you think someone is having a medical emergency.