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Poison Control Calls spiking

By Stephanie McGilvray, MMSc, PA-C, Department Chair and Program Director for the Physician Assistant Studies Program at the University of South Alabama


National Safety Month reminds parents to take home safety seriously.

National Safety Month takes on new importance this year while families are homebound indefinitely due to COVID-19.

After weeks of stay at home mandates, many families have adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of home offices and distance learning.

As Alabama moves into the summer months, school, summer camps, and vacations are cancelled, causing families to continue to stay at home.

Households are bursting at the seams, while parents and caregivers juggle working from home, keeping the kids entertained, and making sure their homes are cleaned and disinfected to keep their families safe and healthy.

With so many worries related to COVID-19, and so many families’ regular routines up-ended, it could be easy to neglect home safety. But now, more than ever, parents and caregivers must be vigilant.

According to the CDC, with the influx of cleaning products in many homes in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, accidental exposures and child poisonings have drastically increased.

Accidental exposures and poisonings among children are rising drastically. Between March and April alone, exposures to cleaning supplies and disinfectants in Alabama increased by 38%.

As a Physician Assistant (PA), I know how fast accidents can happen with little ones in the home – not to mention if they’re quarantined fulltime.

They can occur throughout the house, from the medicine cabinet, to the kitchen and even the laundry room. This is a great time to remind everyone how to safely use and store these cleaning products around their kids.

I urge everyone in Greenville and the surrounding communities to remember that health and safety go hand in hand. Take a moment to pause, look around the house, and take the necessary steps to make your home safer.

A recent survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) revealed more than 67 percent of parents with children under age four reported their laundry room is accessible to children.

Although the laundry room is an essential part of household routines, it can often go overlooked when child-proofing the home.

ACI’s Packets Up! child safety campaign is dedicated to helping families prevent accidental exposures to cleaning supplies, including liquid laundry packets – and keeping these items safely stored is the key to prevention.

Here are some safe habits and cleaning tips to help families cleaning for COVID-19:

  • Continue to clean with guidance from CDC and your healthcare provider. The most important steps parents can take is following the guidance from the CDC and their healthcare providers. The CDC disinfecting guidelines are:

o Clean hands and surfaces with soap and water first; when wiping down a surface be sure to wipe in a straight line, not in a circular motion.

o Use disinfectants by following the instructions as directed on the label, then let dry.

o Priority items to clean and disinfect are; doorknobs, light switches, sink faucets and cell phones.

o While cleaning, do not leave cleaning products out in the open and in reach of children. Immediately put cleaning supplies up and out of reach of those at risk for exposure after use.

o Do not use surface care products on your skin.

If parents are worried about the chemicals in cleaning supplies, visit to gain a better understanding of cleaning products, and for a list of ingredients in cleaning supplies and directions for chemical safety.

  • Teach your kids safe cleaning habits by including them in household chores

While at home, every kid needs activities to occupy their time and every parent needs help keeping the home clean. Involve kids in cleaning and disinfecting activities:

o Have them clear clutter so you can disinfect different areas of the home.

o Allow them to wipe down surfaces with soap and water before you disinfect.

o Teach them to wash their hands properly-with soap and water for 20 seconds.

o Teach them what products they should not use on their skin.

  • Store all batteries, medicines, cleaning products and liquid laundry packets up high, out of reach and out of sight.

From the garage to the laundry room, the best place to store medicines or liquid laundry packets is in an overhead cabinet secured with a child safety lock. If you don’t have a cabinet available, place the products (in their original packaging) into a larger bin with other laundry and household products and put it up high where those at risk won’t be able to see or access it.

  • Immediately move laundry packets and cleaning products to their safe storage place upon arrival in your home.

When purchasing laundry packets and other household cleaners, have them bagged separately and then put them away – up high and out of sight and reach – as soon as you get home and unpack your groceries.

  • Always keep cleaning products in their original container with labels intact. These containers are designed to be child resistant and, in case of an emergency, have ingredients and poison control information clearly displayed on the label.

During National Safety month, make proper cleaning product use and storage a habit. Make sure you are prepared in the event of an unintended exposure.

For more safe storage tips, visit If you think someone has been accidentally exposed to laundry packets or other household products, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 and seek immediate medical attention.

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