Living Columns & Blogs

Make poison prevention part of your spring cleaning

Spring is finally coming to Centre County — blue skies, warm winds and spring cleaning are just around the corner. March 20 is the first day of spring, and also kicks off National Poison Prevention Week. So, while you’re working around your home to shake off the dust of winter, this is also a good time to take steps to protect yourself and your family from harmful chemicals and other poisons that often surface with spring cleaning, as well.

With everyone reaching for mops and brooms, it’s important to remember that while the cleaning products used to keep bacteria and bugs away are great at keeping our homes healthy, these products themselves can be dangerous.

▪ Ventilation: Open windows and turn on some fans to keep your rooms well-aired while cleaning, so you can breathe better and there’s less chance of inhaling toxic fumes.

▪ Do not mix chemicals: Do not mix cleaning products for even the most stubborn jobs unless directed specifically to do so. The wrong mix of chemicals can cause serious injuries to the skin or lungs.

▪ Follow instructions: Be safe and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging.

Know what’s in your home

While you’re clearing out the old and bringing in the new, take a moment to look around and check on the other things that you have stored in your house and garage. Cleaning products and potentially hazardous materials should be kept in their original packaging with labels. If not, spring is an excellent time to label them and make sure everyone knows what’s there. A bottle without a label might be mistaken for the wrong thing. So, if you find something mysterious, label it or dispose of it.

Organizing is an important spring activity. We love to keep things tidy and in convenient spaces — i.e., toilet bowl cleaner in the bathroom; laundry detergent near the washing machine; dish cleaners under the sink. But these colorful liquids in fun-shaped packages are irresistible for kids, who could accidentally ingest something poisonous. No matter how you organize, remember to keep things up and away, out of reach of children, or install child-safe locks on the cabinet doors so that kids can’t get in. For older kids, teach them what’s safe and what’s not — maybe while they’re helping you clean.

Finally, don’t forget to spring ahead. Remember to set clocks forward one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday for daylight saving time. While you’re thinking about changing the time on the oven, go ahead and change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Have a question?

Everyone is ready to shake off the last of the cold and frosty winter and make their way into warmer weather. Remember to keep your cleaners, medicines and other dangerous materials labeled and safely put away. And if you ever need help or have a question about possibly poisonous substances, the experts at the American Association of Poison Control Centers are available at 800-222-1222 in many languages, 24/7 , at no charge.

Christopher Heron is a family medicine physician with Penn State Medical Group, in State College.