Poison and firearms stored in open endanger visiting kids

12/20/04

In homes where children are just visitors, residents are twice as likely to say they keep their medicines out in the open, stored in a purse or left unlocked, compared with homes where children live, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Homes where children are visitors are also more likely to store firearms unlocked, even though homes where children live and visit have comparable numbers of firearms, say Tamera Coyne-Beasley, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center and colleagues.

"This points to the need to encourage parents to investigate the safety practices in homes in which their children visit, whether other children live there or not," Coyne-Beasley says.

Coyne-Beasley and colleagues surveyed 1,003 households nationwide about household poison and firearm storage in parents' homes and homes that their children visit as part of a larger survey on home safety and injuries.

About 15 percent of the homes with either child visitors or residents also had residents who were age 70 or older. The researchers thought that homes with older adults might be less apt to store firearms and poisons safely, but Coyne-Beasley says that was not the case.

"The majority of homes, regardless of the presence of older adults, reported medication and storage practices in which medications or household chemicals were not locked up," she says, although many residents said they did not keep medicine and chemicals out in the open.

Homes with older adults and child visitors tended to have more firearms and less safe storage of firearms than homes without older adults, although the difference between the two was not significant, the researchers note.

"While these differences may not be statistically significant, they may be clinically relevant and represent a risk to children," Coyne-Beasley says.

Unintentional injuries, including poisoning and gunshots, are the leading causes of death among children and young adults in the United States.

The study was supported by the Home Safety Council, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the William T. Grant Faculty Scholars Program, the Robert Wood Johnson Harold Amos Faculty Development Program and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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