PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Each year, thousands of children under the age of 5 are unintentionally poisoned by household products or medication.
But the national mortality rate among these incidents has increased over the past couple of years, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pediatric Poisoning Fatalities and Injuries report.
Following a record low of 17 deaths in 2018, the report states that 34 children under 5 died in 2019, followed by 43 kids in 2020.
The spike in deaths can likely be contributed to the pandemic, which “has led families to spend more time indoors,” according to the CPSC. The report states that nearly 80% of unintentional poisonings, both fatal and non-fatal, occur at home.
The CPSC said that narcotics, such as opioids, caused nearly half of those pediatric deaths.
The report states that the number of non-fatal poisonings among children under 5 dropped slightly from 2019 to 2020, from 67,500 to 61,500, though the CPSC admitted that “the trend was not statistically significant.”
Locally, Rhode Island Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said children under the age of 4 are the most likely to experience unintentional poisonings.
From 2018 to 2020, Wendelken said 240 children under the age of 4 were rushed to the emergency room after swallowing something hazardous, as compared to 30 kids between the ages of 5 and 9 during that same time frame.
Wendelken said there are a number of products parents should keep away from their children to prevent these unintentional poisonings, such as antifreeze.
“It’s Kool-Aid colored and the sweet taste makes it attractive to kids,” Wendelken explained.
Batteries, items that contain lead and cleaning products are also of concern, according to Wendelken.
Nationally, the CPSC report states that blood pressure medications, acetaminophen and antidepressants are the top three causes of unintentional poisonings among kids.
Dietary supplements, bleach and laundry packets (also known as “pods”) also made the list.
There’s a number of preventative measures parents can take to prevent their children from ingesting something they’re not supposed to.
The CPSC recommends parents keep chemicals, medications and cleaning supplies safely stored out of the reach of children.
Parents should also keep potentially harmful products inside their child-resistant packaging, according to the CPSC, and any item with an unsecured battery should be either placed out of a child’s reach or reinforced with tape.
Most importantly, the CPSC urges parents to contact Poison Control immediately if a child swallows or is exposed to something hazardous.