Nearly nine out of 10 unintentional poisonings occur in the home. On average, 31 children under the age of five die in the U.S. each year of unintentional poisonings from consumer products found in the home. This is a decline of 80% from 1972, when 216 children died. In 2018, the number of reported fatalities dropped to 17, the lowest figure since reporting began in 1972.
Unfortunately, fatalities have increased over the past several years. Pediatric poisoning fatalities doubled to 34 in 2019, and they increased by 26 percent in 2020, reaching 43 fatalities for the year. Narcotics, such as opioids, made up almost half of these deaths.
Although it is too early to know whether recent increases are indicative of a trend, or if they are outliers, clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has led families to spend more time indoors. This increases the risk of unintentional poisonings that could result in injury or death, especially for children and older adults. In the first nine months of the pandemic–from March to December 2020–there was a 62 percent increase in battery-related injuries for children ages five to nine and a 72 percent increase in serious injuries related to cleaning agents.
Safety tips for parents and caregivers:
- Keep chemicals, medications and cleaning supplies safely stored in a locked cabinet or box, out of the reach of children.
- Keep medicines and household chemicals in their original, child-resistant containers.
- Do not let children handle laundry detergent packets.
- Store laundry detergent packets in their original containers, out of a child’s sight and reach.
- Coin-size button batteries, used in all sorts of electronics, are dangerous if swallowed. Do not leave products with accessible button batteries within reach of children and use tape to help secure a battery compartment that does not have a screw closure.
- Call Poison Help (800-222-1222) immediately if a child swallows or is exposed to the chemicals.