LIFE

The Insecticides To Avoid If You Have Small Children In The House

Accept that toddlers will put everything in their mouths and buy accordingly.

12/08/2016 3:31 PM AEST | Updated August 15, 2016 19:24
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It's not just the ingredients of insecticides but also the bottle they come in.

When experts at Australian poison hotlines receive a call about a one-year-old, chances are it's because the toddler has put ant bait in its mouth.

Ant bait and liquid is by far the most common cause of insecticide poisoning for children under five, but thankfully, the consequences are rarely severe.

Yet ingredients in other household bug sprays and treatments can cause hospitalisation and, in extreme cases, death.

Reactions to insecticide exposure

Exposure to insecticides may cause local dermal irritation, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, bronchospasm, dyspnoea, coughing, headaches, miosis, seizures, muscle twitching, paralysis and, in severe cases, death.

An analysis of calls to the Queensland Poisons Information Centre found that of all enquiries, 49 percent were to do with household insecticides and children under five.

Researcher Karin English of the University of Queensland told The Huffington Post Australia that one-year-olds were the age group most commonly affected by insecticides.

"That's not a surprise because children at that age put everything in their mouths," English told HuffPost Australia.

"What did surprise me was all the other ways young children were exposed with chemicals in the house -- whether being sprayed by an older sibling or touching an area that had been treated."

What to avoid in your home

Organophosphates

English said people with young children in the house should avoid one insecticide ingredient in particular: organophosphates such as diazinon.

Katja Kircher
Some spray bottles are easier for children to use than others.

"I was not expecting to find organophosphates available in a spray bottle similar to a Windex bottle," English said.

"These bottles are easier for children to use than others and if exposed enough to organophosphates and no treatment is sought, it can cause death."

You can find the products including the highly toxic ingredient at the Public Chemical Registration Information System Search, including ant dust, fly spray and a range of flea treatments.

Ant baits and liquids

The most common cause of insecticide poisoning is ant baits and liquids, which have the active ingredients boric acid, fipronil and indoxacarb.

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Don't put ant bait anywhere little fingers can find it.

English said that while poisoning from these ingredients was rarely dangerous, it was easy to avoid contact.

"If you're using them, make sure they're right under the fridge where toddlers can't reach them."

Insect sprays

Most insect sprays include pyrethroids, which are rarely lethal, and safer than organophosphates but English said any spray should be stored safely.

"We found younger children were likely to mouth the nozzle but older children might be getting to the age where they can find where they're stored," English.

"Make sure they're stored out of reach, and if the nozzle has an on/off switch, use it."

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