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How to keep toddlers safe from household dangers

| Safety | Healthy You | Kids Health

Dr. Ruscher holds a package of button batteries

Dr. Ruscher offers tips on keeping little explorers safe at home.

Young children love to explore their world, and putting items in their mouth is a common way they learn about their environment.

When I was a toddler, I swallowed a lot of coins. More than I told my parents about, actually. Luckily, none of them ever got stuck.

What goes in must come out, right? But it’s not always that easy. Occasionally, as a pediatric surgeon, I am asked to remove a coin or other foreign object lodged in a child’s intestinal tract. Some household items can cause serious health problems.

What’s the danger?

Here are some of the more worrisome household objects and how to keep your child out of harm’s way.

Keep magnets out of reach at all times. 

Small magnets are a common part of many desktop toys and are of course on the back of everything on our refrigerator. If a child swallows more than one magnet at a time or a magnet plus another iron object, damage to the intestines could occur.

Make sure any household devices have secure childproof covers. 

Button or disc batteries can be found throughout the average American home. Key FOBs for cars, remote controls, small toys and hearing aids all carry the small shiny discs – perfect for little mouths. The trouble is, the batteries can cause burns to internal organs, and possibly death. If you ever suspect your child may have swallowed a battery or a toy or hearing aid with a battery in it, seek medical attention right away.

Watch this video to learn more about the dangers of button batteries.

Keep all medications—including prescription and over-the-counter—in childproof containers, safely out of children’s reach. 

We all have medicines in our homes. For those of us that take one or more pills on a daily basis, weekly or monthly pill organizer boxes offer a great way to keep medications straight. However, they rarely are as childproof as the original packaging. And many pills look surprisingly like candy. During the recent holiday season, a photo went viral on social media of an adorable gingerbread house decorated entirely with medications. Medications should be up, away, and out of sight.

Keep Mr. Yuk stickers on every cleaner in your house. 

Household cleaners are still a risk for children. The bright colors and packaging are a draw for little ones. And new risks are emerging. Laundry detergent pods are not just dangerous if swallowed; they are also now a leading cause of eye injury in preschool-age children.

For more information, contact Poison Control at 800-222-1222.

Be aware of things that can block airways.

Foods such as hot dogs, carrots, hard candy and even peanut butter can get stuck in the throat of a young child. Household items such as buttons, bottle caps and small toys can also be dangerous. Keep choke hazards out of reach. Cut food into pieces that won't get stuck. And be aware that even older children can choke on small objects; keep a close eye on what they're eating and doing. Read more on how to prevent choking. 

These healthy living tips courtesy of Kimberly Ruscher, MD, chief of PeaceHealth Medical Group Pediatric specialties.

portrait of Kimberly A. Ruscher MD

Kimberly A. Ruscher MD

General Surgery
Pediatric Surgery
Dr. Ruscher has been with PeaceHealth Pediatric Surgery since 2013. She was part of the first graduating class of Florida State College of Medicine, then completed General Surgery residency at University of Connecticut and Fellowship at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She aims to provide high-quality surgical care for the full range of pediatric surgical conditions. Special areas of interest include chest wall deformities (including for adult patients), congenital disorders, minimally invasive surgery, hernias, abdominal pain, emergency and neonatal surgery. She sees patients at PeaceHealth Medical Group locations in Springfield, Corvallis, and Bend, and at Shriner’s Hospital in Portland. She enjoys gardening, cooking and quality time with her husband and children.