I didn’t have the number for the Poison Control Center in my phone the first time I needed it. The deadly substance that threatened my littles? Baby powder. I had it high on a shelf, seemingly safe out of reach for my three-year-old who had just begun to share a room with her one-year-old sister.
The next morning they slept in, and I was feeling quite smug about the successful transition from my husband’s and my room, into sibling cohabitation. Then I heard laughing. They hadn’t been sleeping! I opened their door with a wave of anticipation. There they were; little, white dust-covered cherubs; one with a guilty look on her face, and the other with a look of pure joy.
The older of the two had scaled the dresser and laid hold of the prize. Then, with her chubby little hands, she sprinkled the baby powder ALL OVER the crib mattress. By the time I walked in they were both covered in the perfumed white talc, enveloped by a cloud of their own creation. They had been holding onto the crib railing, vaulting themselves into the air, and hammering their little legs into the now toxic crib sheet.
It was everywhere. In their ears, up their noses, and in their mouths. In a matter of minutes, I had them loaded in the car, looked up the number for poison control and called while sitting in my driveway. The operator calmly and carefully gathered all the information, and then told me it was only dangerous if they inhaled it.
At that I immediately started the car and was ready to bolt. (And I mean, I’m-not-stopping-for-anything BOLT!) My adrenaline was spiking into the save my children at all costs territory, when the calm voice on the line broke through my panic, explaining that I simply needed to watch their breathing, and only bring them to the ER if I saw any changes. In what was almost a pastoral voice, the kind poison control operator talked me down from my own mama threshold of crazy and explained again what to look for.
In the end, the kids were fine. (Despite the obsessive lady who indiscriminately bypassed their personal space all day, pressing her ear to their little lungs, carefully listening to their every breath.) And I am utterly grateful for the people at the Poison Control Center. I would like to say that was the only time I’ve called them, but it wasn’t. Yes, there were future calls of a diaper rash cream incident, and glass-top cleaner ingestion, to which I got an “it happens all the time,” and a bonus “just keep an eye on her, and if she starts acting drunk, take her in.”
I know I’m not the only one, either. My friends have told me stories of their children eating chlorine tablets and spraying cleanser in tiny eyes. As a child, I myself once ate a whole tube of Miss Piggy toothpaste. Truth is, we mamas try our best, but children are ninja quick, and not quite versed in what is and is not edible.
These are situations no mama wants to experience, but they happen, even to the most watchful of eyes. Perhaps your child thought medicine was candy, window cleaner was punch, or topical lotion was frosting. Sometimes they just get past the childproof caps and safety locks. And even if it’s up high, they can figure out how to reach it.
So, What Can You Do?
Lock up your meds, cleansers, and dangerous chemicals. Do not underestimate the speed of the young, adorable, and ignorant. They know you hide the candy you don’t want to share, so they are already on the lookout.
In the case of hazardous chemicals, their lack of knowledge can hurt them, and if you haven’t already, enter this phone number into your phone NOW: 1.800.222.1222 and save the Poison Control Center website in your favorites. They may be the voice that saves your little one’s life in a crisis.