Hidden kitchen dangers

Common items that can spell trouble for kids

Most of us know the importance of keeping chemicals and prescription medications safely away from children. But many kitchen items we use every day, while seemingly harmless, can be equally as dangerous, even fatal.

Recently, a central Kentucky toddler choked to death after trying to eat a large amount of cinnamon. The coroner ruled the death accidental and said that asphyxiation from ingesting cinnamon is common. It is nearly impossible to swallow this dry, powdery spice without fluids, allowing it to easily block the airway.

Ashley Webb, director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center and a board-certified clinical toxicologist, said the center receives many calls every day concerning exposure to common kitchen items.

If you suspect your child has ingested a harmful substance or you have other concerns about potential poisoning, call the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. Calls are free and answered by medical professionals, nationally certified in toxicology, who are trained to assess the situation and symptoms and recommend appropriate care.

“There are many seemingly safe items commonly kept in the kitchen, including some we consider food, that can cause harm when handled inappropriately,” Webb said. “Anyone with small children in their home should be aware of these hidden dangers and take precautions to keep them out of reach.”

Here are some items you might have in your kitchen that can lead to potential health problems:

Salt: As little as one teaspoon of salt can raise sodium levels in a small child and lead to a condition called hypernatremia. Symptoms can be vague, including feeling tired, weakness and irritability. In severe cases, the child may have seizures or go into a coma.

Baking soda: Like salt, baking soda contains a lot of sodium. Eating even small amounts can cause changes in the body. Symptoms include confusion, weakness, low blood sugar and impaired breathing. Seizures and abnormal heart rhythm are also possible.

Caffeine: Most products containing caffeine, such as cola and coffee, aren’t dangerous. However, consuming large amounts of caffeine through energy drinks or supplements can cause symptoms such as vomiting and rapid heartbeat and lead to disorientation, seizures and abnormal heart rhythms that can be fatal.

Vanilla and other extracts: Many extracts contain high levels of alcohol. There are alcohol-free versions, so be sure to look at the ingredient list on the label.

Raw foods: Any raw food — from meats to produce — can be contaminated with bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Webb stresses the importance of keeping harmful items stored safely away from children.

“Cabinet locks and latches are not childproof, they are child-resistant — meaning they only slow kids down,” she said. “We recommend storing harmful items, including cleaners and chemicals, in higher locked cabinets and out of sight instead of under the sink.”


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