Each year, the third week in March marks National Poison Prevention Week in the U.S. This year, officials have warned that with so many families still largely hunkered down at home due to the pandemic, the risk of accidental poisonings is higher.

Hand sanitizer and disinfectants have become a mainstay in many homes during the pandemic, and pose a risk to kids if ingested. The American Association of Poison Control Center says exposure to these types of household cleaning products ticked up about 3.5% between March of 2020 and February 2021, when compared to the same time period before the pandemic.

The increase may seem slight, but each case can represent a child who could end up suffering nausea, vomiting, or even burns. About half of those incidents involved children under 1—and tens of thousands of them resulted in trips to the emergency room.

Household cleaners aren’t the only items to watch out for. A White House proclamation for National Poison Prevention Week also lists laundry pods, coin cell batteries, liquid nicotine, and medication among the most commonly ingested items.

If you’ve got any of these types of products in your home, here’s what you need to know:

  • Items should be in child-proof packaging, and should be stored where kids can’t reach them
  • Items should be kept in their original containers to avoid confusion—experts say glass containers may look nice, but they’re much easier for children to access
  • Items should never be left unattended, where kids can easily grab them
  • Experts suggest keeping products like household cleaners in a child-proof cabinet, and warn parents that potentially harmful fumes can linger in cabinets even after products have been moved

As parents, we all do our best to keep our kids as safe as we can, but we all know that little ones can get themselves into trouble in the blink of an eye. If you’re worried about a possible exposure, you can contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or go to poisonhelp.org.

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