As home to the Northern Ohio Poison Control Center, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital works in a variety of ways to prevent unintentional poisoning by reaching out to residents of all ages in the twenty- five-county area served by the poison center.
Be Poison Smart
Young children are at greatest risk of unintentional poisoning due to their age, developmental level, small size, unique metabolisms, and high level of curiosity. That is why the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Center adopted a national curriculum, known as “Be Poison Smart,” to help reach those who need poison prevention information most—the parents and caregivers of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. As part of the “Be Poison Smart” program, Rainbow trains individuals who have direct contact with parents and caregivers about the key elements of poison prevention and the best methods for discussing the topic with families in a positive, respectful way. Since Rainbow launched this program in 2002, attendees have included early childhood educators, social services personnel, healthcare providers, emergency services personnel, and others who regularly interact with caregivers of young children. The “Be Poison Smart” program is designed to have a ripple effect, in which each individual trained shares the poison prevention message with numerous families.
My Child Would Never Do That!
When we hear of children eating drain cleaner or drinking a bottle of mouthwash, we are likely to shake our heads and wonder about the parenting skills of the caregivers that allowed it to happen—or wonder why any child would think that rat poison looks appetizing. Despite this common reaction, unintentional poisoning is not merely something that happens to “bad” or uninvolved parents. A key element of the Rainbow Injury Prevention Center’s poison outreach efforts is to give parents and caregivers concrete examples of the kinds of risks children face each day and help them to see how easily their children could become victims.
“Our presentations at community education events often include a selection of look-alike products that provide startling visual examples of how easily children can mistake poison substances for items that are good to eat or drink,” says Nikesha Yarbrough, Poison Prevention Coordinator with the Rainbow Injury Prevention Center. Seeing a can of parmesan cheese next to a can of Comet cleanser is a disturbing experience for parents who always assumed their children would know better than to ingest a household cleaner. Similarly, the Center’s medicine look-alike display provides side-by-side comparisons of a variety of potentially toxic medications with popular candies, providing another shocking demonstration of how attractive dangerous substances can be for young children.
Learning With Spike
Poison education at the Rainbow Injury Prevention Center also takes the prevention message directly to children in day cares and schools through Spike’s Poison Prevention Adventure. In this series, Spike, the poison prevention porcupine, introduces preschool and kindergarten-age students to some important concepts of poison prevention and safety. The program includes a video, teacher’s guide, poison hotline stickers, and handouts. To supplement the curriculum, the Rainbow Injury Prevention Center provides a furry Spike puppet for teachers to use and paper puppets for the children, as well as Spike temporary tattoos and a Spike bulletin board kit for display in the classroom.
Educational efforts aimed at children are not meant to take the place of poison proofing by a responsible adult; instead, poison prevention education aimed at young children takes the first steps in helping youngsters realize that not everything that looks colorful or appetizing is good to eat or drink. The Spike series stresses the message that children should always check with an adult before eating or drinking anything they find—no matter how good it looks. Materials sent home after the presentation also help to educate Mom, Dad, and other caregivers, and encourage a dialog between parents and children about poison prevention.
Poison Smart=Poison Safe
Taking a proactive approach to poison safety can prevent untold numbers of families in Northeast Ohio from ever needing the services of a poison control center. Through their many and varied education and outreach efforts, the Rainbow Injury Prevention Center and the Northern Ohio Poison Control Center are working together to ensure that every child in Northern Ohio is poison safe and every parent is poison smart.