Organizing household items helps avoid look-alike poisoning

  • Published: Friday, March 16, 2018

COLUMBIA, Mo. – If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.

Not necessarily, says University of Missouri Extension safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch. Many poisons look like common household items because they are the same color or shape or are packaged similarly. Mistakes can have consequences ranging from temporary discomfort to severe illness, permanent injury or death.

During the Missouri State Fair and other events promoting agricultural safety, Funkenbusch demonstrates how common household items look similar to poisons. She says National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24, is a good time to review safety guidelines with family members.

Funkenbusch recommends that you take a tour of your home. Pretend that you are a curious child looking for something to eat or drink. Remember that young children can’t read, and look for things that are appealing by using your sight, smell, touch and taste senses.

Children and elderly people may confuse medications with candy, says Funkenbusch. Store medications in original packaging in an area where children cannot reach. Check the label and dose before using. Take medicine in a well-lit room. Store cleaning products, medicines and beauty aids away from food. Good organization prevents confusion.

Prepare for emergencies by talking to household members. Keep the toll-free Poison Helpline number, 800-222-1222, near the home telephone and program it into your mobile phone.

Funkenbusch lists some common poison look-alikes:

• Antacids come in pastel colors similar to children’s candy. Some 3-volt button batteries also look like candy.

• Window cleaner or windshield washer fluid may look like blue-tinted mouthwashes and sports drinks.

• Nicotine gum can be easily confused with regular chewing gum.

• Detergent packets and gummy candies and vitamins have similar colors and consistencies.

• Bleach laundry detergent packets and marshmallows look alike but taste differently. See “Laundry packets pack a harmful punch to children” at extension.missouri.edu/n/2466.

• Some types of coated fertilizer look like candy or breath mints.

• Chocolate laxatives and chocolate candy bars are commonly mistaken.

• Many pills can be confused with sugared cake decorations.

• Pine cleaners and apple juice are similar in color. Children who cannot read yet may confuse the two.

For more resources, go to www.missouripoisoncenter.org.

Writer: Linda Geist

Media Contact

Karen Funkenbusch
573-884-1268

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