By Jerry Erickson, DMSc, PA-C DFAAPA
President, PA Foundation Board of Trustees

COVID-19 has dramatically altered the daily routines of families across the nation. Just as busy working parents were adjusting to the ‘new normal’ and setting up their home offices, states are now announcing that schools will be closed through the rest of the academic year. Households are feeling more crowded, while parents and caregivers are challenged with keeping hands, surfaces and clothing items clean and disinfected.

With so many worries related to COVID-19, and so many families’ regular routines up-ended, it could be easy to neglect home safety. But now, more than ever, parents and caregivers must be vigilant.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many homes are stocking up on cleaning products, creating a potential hazard for young children. It’s easy to leave products designed for regular use, such as hand sanitizer, out on the counter, and to neglect safety measures. I urge everyone in the Knoxville community to pause, look around the house, and take the necessary steps to make your home safer.

As a Physician Assistant (PA), a dad, and president of the PA Foundation, I know how fast accidents can happen with little ones in the home, especially if they’re quarantined full-time. Accidents can occur throughout the house, from the medicine cabinet to the kitchen and even in the laundry room. For that reason, this is a great time to remind everyone how to safely use and store cleaning products around their kids.

As an example, a recent survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) revealed more than 67 percent of parents with children under age four said their laundry room is accessible to children. Although the laundry room is an essential part of household routines, it can often go overlooked when child-proofing the home. ACI’s Packets Up! child safety campaign is dedicated to helping families prevent accidental exposures to cleaning supplies, including liquid laundry packets – and keeping these items safely stored is the key to prevention.

Take note of these safe habits and cleaning tips to help families prevent the spread of COVDI-19:

• Continue to clean with guidance from CDC and your healthcare provider. The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and objects, such as tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles, to decrease the spread of bacteria or viruses and prevent family members from getting sick. As long as parents and caregivers are vigilant about immediately putting cleaning supplies up and out of reach of those at risk for exposure after use, everyone in the household can stay safe and healthy.

If you are concerned about the chemicals in cleaning supplies, visit PacketsUp.com to gain a better understanding of cleaning products, and Epa.gov for a list of ingredients in cleaning supplies and directions for chemical safety.

• After shopping, immediately move laundry packets and cleaning products to their safe storage place upon arrival in your home.

When purchasing laundry packets and other household cleaners, have them bagged separately and then put them away – up high and out of sight and reach – as soon as you get home and unpack your groceries.

• Store all batteries, medicines, cleaning products and liquid laundry packets up high, out of reach and out of sight.

From the garage to the laundry room, the best place to store medicines or liquid laundry packets is in an overhead cabinet secured with a child safety lock. If you don’t have a cabinet available, place the products – in their original packaging – into a larger bin with other laundry and household products, and put the bin up high where those at risk won’t be able to see or access it.

• Always keep cleaning products in their original container with labels intact. These containers are designed to be child resistant and, in case of an emergency, have ingredients and poison control information clearly displayed on the label.

To keep your home safe, make sure you are prepared in the event of an unintended exposure. For more safe storage tips, visit PacketsUp.com. If you think someone has been accidentally exposed to laundry packets or other household products, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 and seek medical attention immediately.