HeadLice.Org Hot Spots
Protect kids from poison

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 full seizures.

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 poisoned.

Poisons are everywhere. They can be found in your garage, kitchen, bathroom or yard. They can even be found in Grandma's purse.

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 reach.

- 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 original container.

- 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 garage.

- 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 hotline.

- 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 or

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 98506, 360-754-5400.


-- send this page to a friend --

The National Pediculosis Association,® Inc.
A Non-Profit Organization
Serving The Public Since 1983.

The National Pediculosis Association is a non-profit, tax exempt
organization that receives no government or agency funding.
Contributions are tax-deductible under the 501c(3) status.

© 1997-2009 The National Pediculosis Association®, Inc. All images © 1997-2009 The National Pediculosis Association®, Inc.