In retrospect, it was some of our scariest minutes as parents of a then three-year-old.

The experience began innocently enough when my wife Judy, our son Michael, and I visited my mother’s house on a warm spring day in 1976.

Judy and I were in the family room talking to my mother. Because Michael spent quite a bit of time at my mother’s, he had a playroom down the hall, where he immediately headed to play with his toys. Or at least that is what I thought.

 
 

After about five minutes, I headed to the playroom to check on Michael. But he wasn’t there. I heard him down the hall in my mother’s bedroom. Entering the room, I found him standing next to an open pill bottle. Pills were scattered over the floor.

Fearing the worst, I hollered for my mother and Judy. They rushed to the bedroom. Judy and I bent down to talk to Michael.

“Did you take any of these pills?” we asked him, trying to keep any tone of terror from our voices.

“No, Mommy,” he said. “I was trying to reach that brush there and the bottle fell over. I’m sorry.”

Judy grabbed the pill bottle from the floor and headed hurriedly down the hallway to call our pediatrician.

I hugged Michael and said, “Mommy, Grand mom, and I aren’t mad. We just need to know. Are you sure you didn’t take any of those pills?” I said, pointing to the scattered collection of capsules on the floor.

“No, Daddy,” he said.

Judy reentered the room. “Dr. Varga said we shouldn’t worry, but we should go to the emergency room just to be sure,” she whispered to me.

After a tense drive to the hospital and about 90 minutes of observation in the emergency room, the doctor on duty assured us that Michael was telling the truth. If he had ingested any of the pills and they were to cause any harmful effects, it would have happened by now.

Before leaving the hospital, we called my mother. You could almost feel her relief rush through the phone lines.

Now, the moral of this tale is that even the greatest grandparents (and believe me, my mother was definitely in that category) can never be too careful. But still, accidents can – and do – happen.

Tips to Make Your Home Safer for Your Grandkids

Medical experts say the occurrence of your grandchildren accidentally ingesting potential poisons can be minimized by following some simple rules. Here are the four most common.

First, put all potential poisons away in a place where they can’t be reached by children. Never keep medications or cleaning supplies out.

Second, dispose of all products that are not regularly used, such as unused medications.

Third, keep all products in their original containers, and, wherever possible, make sure these medicines and products use child-proof caps.

Finally, keep an up-to-date list of all medications you or anyone else in your home takes. That information will be critical if your grandchild should accidentally take any of the medications.

But as the incident with our son shows, accidents can still happen. In our case, there were three adults to handle the situation. But what if you are alone at the time?

What Should You Do If Your Grandchild Does Ingest Something Dangerous?

Have the national poison center help number on or near every household phone or stored in your cell phone. In the United States, that number is 800-222-1222. The National Poison Control Center outlines the following protocol.

If you believe you grandchild has ingested something he or she shouldn’t have, try to remain calm.

Call 911 (or the emergency number in your country) immediately if your grandchild has collapsed or isn’t breathing.

If your grandchild is awake and alert, dial the poison help line (or your local hospital emergency room line if no poison line is available).

Follow the poison control center or the emergency operator’s directions exactly.

It’s Best to Be Prepared

Now you may say this will never happen in my home so I really don’t need to be prepared.

However, statistics say otherwise. The National Poison Control Center in the United States reports there are two million calls a year about potential exposure to poisons. Almost all of these exposures occur in the home and 80% of the calls concern children between the ages of one and four.

Anyway, isn’t it better to be equipped with information you never have to use than to not have it in the event of a harrowing life-or-death situation?

And I’m certain if you’re old enough to be a grandparent, you’ve experienced enough of life to know the correct answer to that.

Obviously, no listing of tips is ever complete. Do you have any additional safety tips about potential poisons or other dangers that you believe grandparents should follow when their younger grandchildren visit? Please share in the comments.

Dave PriceA retired journalist and educator, Dave Price now operates a freelance writing/speaking/consulting practice in Washington, DC. Price focuses on four subjects – the Baby Boomer generation, classic rock, issues of aging, and grandparenting. You can follow Dave at his website or on Facebook or Twitter.

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