I am not an alarmist when it comes to parenting. I don’t lurk around Instagram, commenting on how unsafe babies are in the photos their parents post. I don’t take my children to the pediatrician unless they are very sick. I let them run around the yard barefoot, eat with dirty hands (gasp!), and climb tall things.
I believe most broken bones can be fixed, and having some adventure and getting filthy is important in childhood. Overall, I am pretty laid back.
But being a pediatric nurse for twelve years has taught me that there are a few items that most of us have in our homes that kids are particularly fond of eating, and it almost always lands them in the emergency room.
First up, gummy vitamins. Please just throw out the gummy vitamins.
If I had a dollar for every time I talked with a parent about a chewable vitamin overdose, I could retire now. Parents make a mistake in thinking the safety cap will keep small children out or older kids will not fall victim to a gummy vitamin overdose. Gummy vitamins look yummy, taste great, come in pretty colors, and are just too tempting for children.
Gummy supplements come in all shapes, sizes, and doses now. You can buy melatonin, multivitamins, fiber, theanine, and many more supplements in gummy form.
While all of these pose a risk to your child if eaten in large quantities, the most dangerous one I have seen is iron. I have no idea why anyone thought it would be a good idea to make gummy iron, but parents shouldn’t own it. Iron is a leading cause of fatal overdoses in children.
Based on my experience, the average age tends to be 6-10. These kids are just old enough to uncap a safety bottle, but not mature enough to realize that gummy vitamins are still medicine.
If you must have gummy vitamins in your home, keep them out of sight and reach of ALL children. I keep all my medicine in the cabinet above the fridge in a container that only comes out when meds are being administered.
More than 2,500 button batteries are ingested each year. I’m not sure why, but button batteries just scream, “taste me!” to children. These insidious little things get swallowed, put in ears, and jammed up noses.
When this happens, the electric current in the batter rapidly increases the pH of the tissue around it, causing severe tissue damage within two hours. Depending on its location, this can cause hearing loss, septal perforation, vocal cord paralysis, and even death.
Toy manufacturers continue to make toys containing button batteries. Most have added a tiny screw to hold the batteries in, but if your family is anything like ours, you have random battery covers somewhere in your house because they fall off so easily.
What can parents do?
Try to avoid purchasing toys that contain button batteries. Maybe if we quit buying them, toy producers will quit making them.
Since these items are virtually unavoidable, be sure to tighten the screw on the battery compartment, and check to be sure it is secure. Periodically check your child’s toys to make sure the screw hasn’t come loose. This can easily be done when you see your child playing with a toy that makes noise. Noisy toys are most likely to contain button batteries.
Toss toys that have button batteries with no safety screw.
Also, talk to your children from a very young age about not putting anything in their mouth, but especially button batteries. My older kids will bring me a button battery if they find one because they know how dangerous they are to the little ones in our home.
We love magnet toys. We have had a lot of fun with Magnetix over the years, and have you seen Bellz? These are really great learning toys!
However, the magnets in these toys are VERY STRONG and swallowing more than one can be fatal. There is no danger in swallowing one small magnet. The danger comes in when two are swallowed. This creates a situation where the magnets can stick to each other in your child’s intestines, leading to pressure necrosis (dead tissue), bowel obstruction, and other complications.
Most pediatricians will recommend an immediate x-ray if your child swallows a magnet to rule out the possibility of there being more than one.
Keep magnet toys away from small children, and talk to your older kids about not putting them in their mouths. Only allow them to be played with on carpet or a blanket because they have a tendency to roll all over the place and get lost, making them perfect for your toddler to pick up later.
I’m not saying throw out the magnet toys (we haven’t), but use close supervision when they are being played with.
When it comes down to it, you never know what your child will decide to get into. When my son was 18 months old, he pulled the bulb out of his nightlight and ate it while one of my older children was reading to him. They didn’t know he had the bulb until the crunching began. To our horror, he loved it and begged for more. We had to hide all bulbs from him for a couple of years.