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Injuries from personal care products send thousands of young children to ERs every year, study finds

shampoo
Based on the data, the researchers estimate that more than 64,000 children younger than 5 years old were treated at hospital emergency departments for injuries related to personal care products during that 15-year period — or about 4,300 children per year.

Each year, thousands of children under the age of five are treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for poisonings or burns related to personal care products commonly found in homes, such as shampoos, skin lotions, nail polish removers and makeup, according to a new study.

In fact, such injuries send one young child to a hospital emergency department about every two hours, on average.

The study’s findings, published this week in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, underscore the need for parents, grandparents and others who have young children in their homes to always make sure such products are stored safely.

“These products are often stored in easy-to-reach places and are not typically in child-resistant containers, [so] it can be easy for kids to get to and open the bottles,” said Rebecca McAdams, one of the study’s authors and a senior research associate at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in a released statement.


“Because these products are currently not required to have child-resistant packaging, it is important for parents to put them away immediately after use and store them safely — up, away, and out of sight — preferably in a cabinet or closet with a lock or a latch,” she added. “These simple steps can prevent many injuries and trips to the emergency department.”

What the data revealed

For the study, McAdams and her colleagues analyzed government data collected from a representative sample of about 100 U.S. hospitals, including eight children’s hospitals, from 2002 through 2016. Each of the hospitals has a 24-hour emergency department.

Based on the data, the researchers estimate that more than 64,000 children younger than 5 years old were treated at hospital emergency departments for injuries related to personal care products during that 15-year period — or about 4,300 children per year.

Most of the injuries (86 percent) were poisonings, which resulted when the child swallowed the products. The remaining injuries (14 percent) were chemical burns, which occurred when the product made contact with the child’s skin or eyes.

Fortunately, none of the children died from their injuries, although an estimated 275 would have had injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.

Children under two years of age were at the greatest risk of hospitalizations. They were most likely to be injured by ingesting hair-care products, particularly those used for hair perming or straightening.

Children aged 2 to 4 years were mostly likely to be injured by fragrance products — usually from chemical burns to the eyes or skin.

“Children are naturally inquisitive and explore their environments as well as model parent or caregiver product use behavior,” the researchers write. “Cosmetic products are often packaged and designed to be colorful, visually appealing, and easy to open and use. The ingredients in cosmetics are often designed to smell good — like fruit or other foods — and a young child may mistake a cosmetic for a food or drink.”

How to prevent injuries

McAdams and her colleagues recommend that parents — and everyone else who has children visiting their homes — follow these safety measures to prevent injuries from personal care products in young children:

  • Up, away and out of sight. Store all personal care products safety: up, away and out of sights — in a cabinet that can be locked or latched is best. Never leave personal care products out unattended, and put them away immediately after use.
  • Store safely now. It is never too soon to start practicing safe storage. Almost 60 percent of the injuries in this study were to children younger than 2 years of age.
  • Original containers. Keep all personal care products in their original containers. Know how to get help. Save the national Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.

FMI: You’ll find an abstract of the study on Clinical Pediatrics’ website, but the full study is behind a paywall.

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