In South Africa, the threat of child poisoning silently looms twice as large as the rest of the world. With incidents of poisoning double the global percentage, South African children face a risk that cannot be ignored. At least 6 children die every month—due to this preventable tragedy, a stark reminder of the urgency with which we must address this issue.

Children under the age of 5, especially those between 2 to 3 years old, stand at a frighteningly high risk of poison and poison ingestion. Notably, boys are found to be more at risk, perhaps due to their exploratory nature. These numbers aren’t just statistics; they are a call to action.

The crux of the problem lies in awareness and prevention. With homes filled with potential hazards—from household cleaners to medications, it’s crucial to implement childproofing measures. But prevention goes beyond locking away hazardous substances; it encompasses education, community support, and a robust emergency response system.

So, what can we do as a nation to combat this silent predator? First, we can educate ourselves and those around us about the common substances that pose a risk. Then, we need to invest time in childproofing homes and ensure that schools and childcare facilities are equipped and trained to deal with such emergencies.

Emergency response is also vital. Knowing who to call and what to do in those first critical moments can make the difference between life and death. We need support from national health institutions to provide rapid and effective responses for poison control.

The Poison Information Centre, available at the helpline number 0861 555 777, operates tirelessly 24/7 where doctors who are poison specialists offer a lifeline to parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals navigating the aftermath of ingestion incidents.

But beyond the immediate response, we must look at systemic change. It involves engaging with manufacturers to ensure that products have child-safe packaging and clear warning labels. Advocacy for better regulations and policies to protect our little ones is also key.

As a community, we stand at the vanguard to safeguard our children from the risk of poison. Acknowledging that our boys under five are especially vulnerable, we must amplify our efforts to protect, educate, and prepare for any potential poison emergencies. Together, we can reverse these haunting statistics and give our children the safe environment they deserve to thrive and explore the world safely.

Together, let’s be vigilant, be informed, and be ready to act. Our children’s lives may depend on it.

Watch the Poison and ingestion Podcast with Dr Cindy Stephen below: