Making Your Home Safe for the Entire Family

PPC Mr Yuk2It’s National Poison Prevention Week, so the team at the Pittsburgh Poison Center wanted to pass along some more easy tips on making your home safe for the entire family.

Many types of medication packages are billed as “child-proof,” including pharmacy prescription lids. While these bottles and blister packs may be “child-resistant” and act as a deterrent to children getting into medication, there is no such thing as child-proof.” Keep this in mind when choosing a location to keep medications. Also remember that many weekly or monthly pill boxes are not child-resistant, let alone child-proof, and can be opened easily by curious little hands. Placing medications in a high cabinet or on top of the refrigerator often isn’t enough! Kids, even very young kids, are more innovative and determined than many adults suspect. The best way to keep kids safe from accidental ingestion of medications, prescription or over the counter, is to keep them both up high and in locked boxes.

Keep all medications in their original containers, even when traveling, and ask visitors to your home to do the same. If there is an accidental ingestion, it is much easier for poison specialists to do an accurate assessment if they can determine exactly which medications a child has ingested and how much. Though it adds to packing volume, which can be inconvenient, it helps provide critical information to the poison specialists.

Cleaning products and other chemicals (such as pool chemicals, bleach and gasoline) should also be secured behind padlocks or key locks. Similar to child lids, child locks, while a deterrent, are relatively simple to disrupt or pull off the area they are intended to secure. For more safe cleaning tips, click here.

As plants start to bloom, poison centers receive many calls about various outdoor ingestion’s; including plants such as mushrooms, wild onions and berries. While most of these plants, when found in open areas such as lawns, aren’t poisonous, they can irritate skin and/or cause upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. Plants found in wooded areas can be of more concern. It is best to teach children not to eat any plants from outside without the guidance of an informed adult. Keep a close eye on pets when they are outside and in the case of an ingestion’s, call the vet or animal poison center, who can offer expert guidance.

When using chemicals to treat plants be certain to wear proper personal protective equipment. While most versions of these products produced for home use aren’t actually toxic, they can be highly irritating. If possible, avoid using them on windy days. Wear goggles, gloves and masks for powders and sprays. Make certain to review package instructions to clarify how long humans and pets should be kept away from the area after use.

Along with warmer weather come household pests, such as mice, wasps, or ants. If you find it necessary to put out poisons, do not place them in the open where children or pets may have easy access. Behind a door secured with a lock is best. If you need to set off a fogger, open all windows prior to doing so and remove all persons from the home. If you decide to call an exterminator, discuss precautions with the company ahead of time, and record the names of any chemicals used in case you have questions of the poison center at a later date. Poison specialists cannot do an accurate assessment if they don’t know what they’re dealing with!  Ant traps should also be concealed as possible, even though the chemical in most ant traps is effectively non-toxic and does not present a hazard to humans or pets in small amounts.

Do not approach or play with any wild animals. Both mammals and reptiles are more likely to attack if they feel threatened or trapped. While small rodents carry a risk of rabies, it’s best to leave them alone. There are several different types of poisonous snakes native to Pennsylvania. Only an expert can make an accurate identification. As with mammals, it’s best to leave them alone — even non-poisonous bites can cause infection.

Mr. Yuk, which was created by the Pittsburgh Poison Center and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in 1971, is a great way to educate children and avoid accidental ingestion’s. Mr. Yuk means: STOP, DO NOT TOUCH BEFORE ASKING AN ADULT. For example, it would be appropriate to place Mr. Yuk on a bottle of vitamins.

Although not toxic if taken appropriately, children should never take them without adult supervision.

You can follow Mr. Yuk on Facebook and Twitter and can purchase Mr. Yuk supplies online at

Your local poison center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to answer any additional questions and to address any poisoning concerns. Call 1-800-222-1222 to contact your regional center.

For more information on the Pittsburgh Poison Center, visit