Protect kids from poison
|PATTY LAYTON, CHERYL HELPENSTELL
PATTY LAYTON FOR THE OLYMPIAN
I will never forget when I was working as an
emergency department nurse in Seattle many years ago and a
mother with a heavy accent called our triage nurse. She was
hard to understand and the triage nurse thought the mother
said her young child has ingested some Prell, a popular hair
shampoo, and that the child was "sick."
The nurse thought the child would probably have an upset
stomach, but asked the mother to bring the child in for
evaluation. Soon thereafter, a frantic mother came running
into the ER carrying her young daughter, who was experiencing
It turned out the child had ingested Kwell, a shampoo
commonly used to treat head lice. Essentially, the little girl
was poisoned with the insecticide found in the shampoo. This
was a very scary reminder that many dangerous poisons lurk in
our homes and garages.
Each year, children are poisoned by any number of household
and personal care products, along with medicines, vitamins,
plants, lead and carbon monoxide.
Children are smaller and have faster metabolic rates than
adults and are at a significantly greater risk of being
Poisons are everywhere. They can be found in your garage,
kitchen, bathroom or yard. They can even be found in Grandma's
Each year, more than 1 million unintentional poisonings in
children ages 5 and younger are reported to U.S. poison
control centers and more than 100,000 children younger than
age 14 are treated for unintentional poisoning in hospital
emergency rooms. Children ages 5 and younger are particularly
vulnerable to poisonings because of their curiosity and
natural desire to put everything in their mouth.
Fortunately, poisoning deaths in children have dramatically
decreased during the past 50 years due in large part to the
use of child-resistant packaging of medicines and other
household products and the development of safer, less-toxic
medications and household products.
The establishment of a nationwide network of Poison Control
Centers also has made a big impact.
SAFE KIDS and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer the
following important ways to prevent poisoning in your home:
- Keep poisonous products locked out of sight and out of
reach. Using safety locks on cabinets is one of the best
ways to prevent poisonings. Sometimes, you will need to get
down on the floor to view the surroundings from a child's
perspective to spot the hazards a child can easily see and
- Always put the child- resistant closures into the
"locked mode" after use: Remember that these "child-proof"
caps do not guarantee children cannot open the container.
- Keep products in their original containers:
Potentially harmful products could be mistaken for something
harmless if you put them in something other than their
- Throw away old medicines and other potential
poisons: Flush old medicines down the toilet and dispose
of old cleaning and work supplies from the basement and
- Never refer to medicine as candy: Children tend to
mimic adults, so avoid taking medicines in front of them.
Remember that some medicines look similar to candy.
- Keep poisonous plants out of reach: Learn which
plants in and around your house are poisonous and either
remove them or make them inaccessible to children. Teach
children to never put leaves, stems, seeds, nuts or berries
from any plant into their mouth.
- Beware of certain cosmetics and personal products:
Children might be tempted to taste cosmetics and personal
products. Something as common as mouthwash can be poisonous if
a child swallows a large amount due its alcohol content. Store
items such as cologne, perfume, hair spray, shampoo and
nail-polish remover out of reach.
- Stay alert while using poisonous household products:
Many poisonings occur while adults are using a household
product such as a bathroom cleaner or bleach. Never leave a
child alone in a room with a poisonous product. It takes only
seconds for a poisoning to occur.
- Teach grandparents and relatives to take precautions:
Grandparents' medicines can be very dangerous to children,
and they often need to be reminded about precautions that need
to be taken when grandchildren are visiting.
If a poisoning occurs, follow these guidelines:
- Be prepared: Post the Poison Control Center
hotline phone number near the phone. The universal phone
number in the U.S. is 800-222-1222. Calls will be routed to
your local poison center.
- Call for help: If you suspect a child has
swallowed something, check his mouth and remove any remaining
poison. Call the poison control toll-free hotline at
800-222-1222 and bring the container of the ingested substance
to the phone with you.
- Do not give the child anything to treat the poison
until you have consulted a poison control center or your
health-care professional: The American Academy of
Pediatrics no longer recommends syrup of ipecac because the
existing evidence does not indicate it can be safely or
effectively used in the home. The AAP recommends safely
disposing of any existing syrup of ipecac. Your first action
is to consult the local poison control center through the
- Rinse skin with water. If a poison has come in
contact with your child's skin, rinse the skin with running
water for 15 minutes. Take off any contaminated clothing and
call the poison control center.
- Flush eyes with water. If a poison has gotten into
your child's eye, gently hold his eyelids open and pour cool
water into them for 15 minutes. Do not let the child rub his
eyes and call the poison control center.
For more information about poison prevention, see http://www.poisonprevention.org/ or http://www.aap.org/
Note: We have a limited supply of a children's
video, "Spike's Poison Prevention Adventure," produced by the
American Association of Poison Control Centers and suitable
for preschoolers. If your preschool would like a free copy,
please call 360-753-8284, while supplies last.
Cheryl Helpenstell and Patty Layton are co-chairs of the
Thurston County SAFE KIDS Coalition. It is one of 300
coalitions in all 50 states affiliated with the National SAFE
KIDS Campaign. SAFE KIDS is the only national organization
with the sole mission of preventing unintentional injuries to
children age 14 and younger. For more information about the
TKSKC, call 360-753-8284.
©2004 The Olympian, 111 Bethel Street NE, Olympia, Washington