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Kids and Household Chemicals: How to Avoid a Trip to the ER

How many of us here are guilty of wanting a clean home? Or a clean classroom for our children? Or even a clean car? Please raise your hands. I am hoping that all of you raised your hands and said I do I do. Keeping the areas that your children live in and frequent clean and as germ-free as possible is an obsession of just about every parent I know. We use hand sanitizer every time we touch or think we may have touched something and we use sanitizing wipes to wipe down every surface that our kids touch and then we wipe down our kids. It’s a never ending cycle. The bottom line being that we want our kids areas clean. There is nothing wrong with having these areas clean but aside from living in a bubble, this means that you are going to have to clean and this inevitably means using some form of chemical or chemicals and that is where the danger starts.

According to Yahoo Health and Wellness, more than 7 million accidental poisonings occur each year and 75% of those involve children under age 6. Injuries vary from minor such as itching or irritation to more severe injuries such as breathing difficulties, internal injuries and sometimes even death. Household poisonings typically involve medicines, household products and cosmetics that were left out, unlocked and easily accessible. Some of the packaging and labels on these products is very close in color and animation to some of the foods our kids love to eat and is many times confused as a snack or drink when it is in fact a chemical such as glass cleaner. The whole key to trying to avoid these terrible situations is prevention. A little planning now can make all the difference later.

Some Poison Prevention Tips:

  • Keep medicines and chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard or childproof chemical lock box.
  • Wherever possible, buy products in child resistant containers
  • Always store chemicals in their original containers
  • Dispose of unwanted medicines and chemicals safely
  • Never store chemicals near Food to avoid possible confusion.
  • Write this down and memorize it: Poison Control 1-800-222-1222

What if I am unsure about what has happened and need help? I will tell you what I tell everyone who has a “what if” question about injuries. Call 911. The dispatchers can help you while the emergency crew is on the way and may even be in contact with poison control at the same time.

Kids are naturally curious and explore every nook and cranny of their homes and will unfortunately find anything you have left lying about or unlocked. While we cannot stop every injury from household items we can lessen the blow by spending some time on prevention and educating our children as to what is safe and what is not.

For Daylight Savings: Check Smoke Alarms & Fire Safety Checklist

To quote our former EMS Safety Expert Greg Atwood in his post A Little Change & Prep Now, a Year of Safety for Your Family:

“when the clocks change, its time to change the batteries in all of your detectors in your home, whether they be smoke or gas detectors. A properly functioning detector is key in the safety of you and your family in early trouble detection from smoke, flames and harmful gases in your home day and night. So please do not put this off, it only takes a few minutes and can make all the difference in the world and while you are at it, maybe you can make a fun family fire drill out of testing your new batteries in your detectors”.


**Our thanks to the wonderful folks at Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide for providing us with this terrific Fire Safety Checklist


Do I Want My Dog to be Protective of My Child?

Our children bring out the protectiveness in all of us. Having the family dog act as protector of our children, although it may sound appealing, this role or “job” can easily backfire.

Being a companion for a family is a sort of “second career” for dogs compared to what they may have been originally bred to do – herding, hunting, etc. Some breeds have had an easier time switching from working dog to companion animal. Other breeds may look for more work to fill their time!

If you don’t give your dog something to do (long walks, training, ball retrieving, swimming, chew toys) they will often come up with their own job.

All they may need is a little encouragement to jump into a role, such as “protector”, but it may be challenging to control how serious they take this new position. The consequences can be detrimental to both the family members and the dog.

For instance, if the dog decides that a growl or bark is not effective to remove or control an individual, they may go straight for the bite. Consequences for the family of the dog can be serious, ranging from medical bills to pay to being sued. For the dog, consequences may be even more serious, as biting incidents can result in a dog being euthanized.

Dogs can naturally come by their “jobs” in the family by chance or when given some intended or unintended direction. An example is when a dog alerts you by barking when someone comes to the door or walks past your house. This is a very innate behavior for most dogs.

Sometimes people start their dog on a new behavior by accident. For example, let’s say you have a new tiny puppy and one day it growls and barks at someone. Everyone giggles and laughs because it looks so cute seeing this adorable puppy acting so tough.

Your unintended response of positive feedback communicates to the puppy that he did a great job. The consequence might be that as the dog matures, he won’t let people come near anyone in the family. It happens!

A few examples of this can be when family or friends come to the house for a visit or celebration, such as for a birthday party or holiday, and the dog can not determine whether or not some of these individuals are friend or foe. I’ve known dog owners who could not leave their children with a friendly babysitter in the house without fear of a bite or nip to the sitter from the dog. Of course, the dog is just trying to be protective and do its job.

Even other children are not exempt from suspicion and can be subject to “corrections” from the dog. Dog owners can become hostage to their own dog and find themselves having to manage their situations by removing the dog to other rooms, crates or kennels, hoping nothing goes wrong when someone visits the home.

Further, if we see a questionable or negative behavior from our dog and don’t disallow it or give guidance, the dog will likely believe it’s an approved behavior. When we allow a dog to growl or exhibit some other display of protection towards a stranger who is approaching your child, you may think, “I like this!” However, when given the green light, dogs may have trouble discriminating between good and bad situations.

If you have given them the role to protect your child, whether intended or not, they will make decisions on their own. Unfortunately, they may not make good choices.

For instance, an old lady with a walker or cane can look as menacing to a dog as an intruder with a weapon.

Even after a dog is familiar with specific family or friends, each occasion can be a unique for the dog. For example, Uncle Bob, who the dog knows, comes for a visit with a new baseball bat and glove for his nephew or niece. In this case the dog may see the baseball bat as suspicious, and therefore jumps in to defend the family biting Uncle Bob in the process. Now Uncle Bob doesn’t want to visit unless the dog is contained.

My advice is, don’t go out of your way to encourage your dog to act protectively. If your dog has started this naturally, be sure you do some training with your dog so you can communicate effectively with them to help them understand their role when interacting with people. If you’re unable to provide this leadership with your dog, it’s important for the safety of friends, family, and strangers, that you seek assistance from an experienced trainer who can help you.

Nicotine Poisoning: How to Keep Your Child Safe

Congratulations, you have quit smoking. It is a huge step that can add years to your life and give you more time to spend with the ones you love. While quitting smoking is not an easy task, there is a whole industry now providing the products used to replace cigarettes called NRT or Nicotine Replacement Therapy. The most common items used to replace smoking are nicotine gum, the nicotine patch, and now the world has been introduced to the e-cigarette or vape.

The most common way children are exposed to nicotine and experience a reaction is direct exposure to nicotine they find around the house.

It goes without saying that anything left out, the kids will find, and that holds true in this case too. Kids will find a pack of gum and chew it or they will find a patch and use their bare hands to remove it from its applicator absorbing the nicotine through their skin. In a growing number of cases now, children are finding the liquid that is put into the vaporizers or e-cigarettes and drinking it because it looks like juice. In all of these examples the child gets exposed to nicotine and can have a reaction.

Nicotine poisoning tends to produce symptoms that follow a pattern. Nicotine poisoning symptoms are caused by extreme stimulation of nicotine in the central and autonomous system and the neuromuscular junction. At lower doses, nicotine causes stimulating effects on the receptors present there but at higher doses or more sustained exposure, the effects are inhibitory and can lead to neuromuscular problems.

The first symptoms are usually the result of the stimulating nature of nicotine. These include:

  • vomiting
  • hypertension
  • headaches
  • excessive salivation
  • seizures

After the first phase of symptoms, other symptoms caused by the depressor effects of nicotine follows. These include:

  • muscular weakness
  • central nervous system depression
  • paralysis
  • coma
  • labored breathing
  • respiratory failure

Exposure to electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine is also quickly becoming a major issue. In 2014, more than 50 percent of nicotine poisoning cases occurred in children under the age of 6. Children and toddlers who come in contact with e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine become very ill very quickly and they exhibit all the symptoms. It is harmful to them and adults should be extremely careful where they keep or place these products.

According to Medline, nicotine overdose may present many potential symptoms. These can include:

  • Nausea and abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Irregular breathing – either rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Confusion
  • Drooling
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fainting

In severe cases, the person may stop breathing. Seizures and coma have also been reported.

If you find your child with any of these symptoms and believe they have ingested nicotine please take them to the emergency room right away or call 911 and get professional help. In the case that your child presents with irregular breathing or any type of altered mental status, please call 911 first.

While we all congratulate you for taking the steps to quit smoking, please be cognizant of the new items that you are using, where you keep those items, and the risk they can pose to your family.

Thank you and please be safe.


EMS Guide to Hurricane Preparation 2017: Keep Your Family Safe!

Editor’s note: we first ran this post September 26, 2016. In light of this year’s unprecedented hurricane season – and hopefully in time to help those of you in hurricane Irma’s path better prepare to weather the storm – we decided to run it again. Be safe everyone!

girl_under_umbrella_hurricaneWe are barely into September and already dead in the middle of hurricane season. While the thought of being in hurricane season may not concern most people, the thought of getting ready for a hurricane can cause some worry and panic if left to the last minute. The long lines, the financial cost, and finally the letdown when yet another hurricane comes and goes and turns out to be nothing more than a windy, rainy day has made properly preparing for hurricanes a bother and an afterthought. I realize that hurricanes, unlike earthquakes can take days and sometimes weeks to happen and give ample time to prepare, but the fact remains that proper preparation and planning can avoid putting you and your family in danger both during and after a storm.

As an EMS provider, I would like to share with you some of the basic hurricane preparation tips that we tell people and also share with you some of the issues that I have seen in the aftermath of storms and weather events.


  • How many people will you be preparing for? Will it be just the people in the house or will there be extended family or grandparents as well. Preparing for four people and housing more will deplete supplies very quickly.
  • Do the people in the plan have special needs, handicaps or medications that need to be filled? What about medical devices that require power? Beds, oxygen tanks, breathing machines, asthma machines etc. All need to be considered.
  • If you have a baby or small child, do you have an ample supply of diapers, formula, medication, clothing etc.
  • Food and water. Buying nonperishable food is recommended, and having at least a 3 day supply is recommended as well. How will we cook the food? Propane tanks should be filled and ready, does a barbecue need to be purchased or brought inside? Refrigerators and freezers should be set very low to preserve food in times of power loss. Enough water should be purchased to keep people hydrated during times of power loss and no air conditioning to avoid any heat or dehydration issues. Water should also be considered for cooking needs as well.
  • Do you have enough batteries to power devices? Do you have a power generator in the event of a loss of power for an extended amount of time? There are many different sizes depending on your power needs. Do you have gas for your generator? When storing any type of fuel, please do so in a well ventilated area and not in the living area as fumes may be toxic. NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR IN OR NEAR THE LIVING AREA. Carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be fatal. The generator or any motorized device should be run outside, in a well ventilated area, well away from where people are gathered or living. Do you have extension cords to run into your home from the generator? Make sure you buy properly rated cords or you could risk a fire starting from overheating of the cords.
  • All pets should be brought in during the storm and enough food and water should be on hand for the pet inside the home. Will there be different pets in the house and could that cause problems? Do the pets take any medication that need to be filled before the storm? Do any of the people staying in your home have any pet allergies? And will this be a possible issue?
  • First Aid supplies. During a storm, EMS providers and fire trucks cannot go outside once the winds hit a certain miles per hour and may prevent us from responding to your home in an emergency. Having a basic first aid kit and supplies such as band aids, gauze, ice packs, ace bandages etc. will help in times of delayed response by EMS.


  • Patio items. Are there any items that may fly way during a storm? Patio furniture, above ground pools, Barbecues, boats, golf carts etc.. If it can be brought inside then it is recommended, but if it cannot then secure it the best you can or try to find an alternate storage site.
  • Securing your home. Do you have impact windows and doors? If not, then are there any hurricane shutters that need to be put up? Do you own hurricane shutters? If not there are places that sell them in standard sizes. Do we have any lingering roof or window issues that may worsen during a heavy rain and wind event? A little drip can turn into a lot more very quickly. Do you have a flooding issue around your home? Sandbags may need to be filled and placed as well.
  • Vehicles can get severely damaged when left outside in a storm. If you have nowhere to store your vehicle then I recommend pulling it as close to the building as possible to avoid as much exposure as possible and it can provide some protection to the structure as well. Having the vehicles fully fueled beforehand is recommended in case of emergency and also to avoid the long lines at the gas station that always result.
  • Sheds and outside storage. In hurricane Andrew here in south Florida, there were numerous reports of tool sheds being sent air born and the tools inside become very sharp and dangerous projectiles in the process. Please secure sheds and storage as much as possible and bring tools inside if possible.
  • Items attached to the home. Any items on the roof such as turbines or whether devices can be ripped off leaving very large holes in the roof and should be removed and capped if possible. Below ground pools should be lowered to avoid damage to the pool as well as the overflowing possible causing flooding towards the home.

For those of you in Florida today – September 8, 2017 – as well as those of you who may find yourselves in similar situations throughout this hurricane season:
Please listen for, and act on evacuation orders. These orders are given after careful consideration and many meetings with informed people. Deadly flood surges are expected in areas of south Florida. So please heed the evacuation orders given by the mayor.

Being 100% prepared for a hurricane truly depends on your needs and the needs of those around you. The list of possibilities is endless but the basics are not. What things do YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to survive on a daily basis? Is a question that should be asked, and contrary to your kid’s beliefs, internet is not one of them. The basic essentials of shelter, food, water, and medicines trump all else. The overall list can be long and daunting and looks much worse when done at the last minute. But having the essentials on hand at the beginning of hurricane season leaves time to accomplish everything else thus making that list not so bad. Having been born and raised here in South Florida and gone through hurricane Andrew, I can tell you firsthand that the supplies we had made all the difference and it will for you as well. I hope this list has served as a guide and a good place to start for you.

Thank You

Beware the Power of Tools in Little Hands

Вoy with cordless screwdriversKids are fascinated by many things they see their parents do around the house. Things like cleaning, exercising, cooking, and painting just to name a few, but there are fewer things around the house that kids are fascinated by more than tools. Not just regular tools, not just big tools, any tools, and especially power tools. Many of us have taken the time to secure everything in our homes to make sure that the kids are as safe as they can be. But I bet if we look in the garage of most, if not all of us, we will find a battery in a charger that powers some sort of tool, and it will be in pretty close proximity to the tool it powers. Kids are curious and very fast learners. If your child has seen you clip that battery into the tool (like loading a clip into a handgun in their favorite video game or TV show), then there is a good chance they have already figured out how to do it themselves.

Gone are the days when all tools required an extension cord, now virtually every home tool has a battery pack you can charge and reuse over again. Just look at the ads on TV for the battery operated weed eaters, lawn mowers, chain saws, drills, nail guns, the list goes on and on, and this only makes turning on these tools kids find in the garage or tool shed that much easier. Non-power tools were estimated to have caused over 3000 injuries in children in the U.S last year, and power tools were estimated to have caused near 4000 injuries as well. What can we do? The answer like anything else is education and planning. If you have these tools in your home or on the property, please take the time and introduce the children to them and impress upon them how dangerous they are and how nobody ever touches them without an adult around. Much the same way you teach about weapons, scissors, and other dangers in the home, tools should be on that list as well.

Tool safety should be taught and emulated by adults. If you are going to teach your kids about tools then take the time and plan it right. Some things to think about are:

  • Eye protection. This is always a must and if you don’t do it, they won’t want to do it.
  • Proper setting. Make sure you are working in a well-lit, well ventilated area.
  • Proper dress. Make sure kids learn about covering up for protection from debris. Eyes, head, arms, legs.
  • RESPECT for the machine. Kids must understand they are working with dangerous tools.
  • Proper footing. Please don’t have your child stand on a wobbly chair and try using a tool. Good footing is a must.
  • Proper ways to hold and use tools.
  • Proper cleaning and storage.

These are just a few of the things to think about when teaching tool safety. Kids are quick studies and teaching basic safety before an accident may prevent one from occurring. Some major stores like Home Depot and Lowes have great kids workshops that are free and allow the kids to get hands on with tools and start on the road to using and learning about tools. As is true with any dangerous items, locking them up is always best, but not always possible, so do your best to keep them out of reach of the children. And as a side note, beware the charging batteries. There are numerous reports of battery chargers overheating and catching fire. Please read the recommended times to charge the batteries from the manufacturer.

I hope this helps and I hope to see all your kids building great things in the future!

Be Safe!

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