Each year, approximately 2.4 million people – more than half under age six – swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance.
Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but not paying attention.
The most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, liquid nicotine, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil.
What should you do if you suspect your child has been poisoned? The first thing always is to call (800) 222-1222 which is The American Association of Poison Control Centers.
They are available 24 hours, seven days a week to help you with any issues regarding poisoning. Even if you think your child may have ingested something, you should call this number. They will direct you to a local control center and advise you of the proper steps to take.
Dr. Joseph O’Neil discusses poison prevention week with great tips to keep your children safe.
RadioMD Presents:Healthy Children | Original Air Date: March 18, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Joseph O'Neil, MD
This is Healthy Children brought to you by the American Academy of Pediatrics on RadioMD.com. Here's Melanie Cole, MS:
MELANIE: About 2.2 million people swallow or have contact with poisonous substances each year and more than half of these poison exposures occur in children under six years of age. This is National Poison Prevention Week and my guest is Dr. Joseph O'Neill. He's an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Welcome to the show, Dr. O'Neill.
So, tell us a little bit about Poison Prevention Week. First of all, what is it and why do we even have it?
O'NEILL: Well, hey. Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate to take the time and talk about something that's very, very important for our children. You know, poison has been one of the things we've battled for years in terms of trying to keep our kids safe. We have done a lot of great work in terms of preventing poisoning with child protective caps and changing the way that we package potentially dangerous materials. So, we really have been able to lower the amount of calls that our Poison Control Centers gets and we have done a great job in terms of helping to keep children safe and being exposed to things that they shouldn't get into.
MELANIE: So, now, why don't we just start by asking about some information about it. If you suspect a poisoning, let's get this out there right at the beginning. What should you do?
O'NEILL: Well, the first thing you need to do is make sure the child is safe. If you have questions, get ahold of the Poison Control Center. The Poison Control Center's numbers are almost everywhere and they are a fantastic resource for our families to be able to call and make sure they get good answers for questions from people who know what they're doing.
MELANIE: So, it's 1-800-222-1222 wherever you are. You can all that number. It will direct you to your local Poison Control Center. So, what should you do first aid wise, if you suspect poisoning, Dr. O'Neill?
O'NEILL: Well, the first thing that I would do is make sure that you get the substance away from the child and then you make sure the child is breathing and make sure the child is alert and awake, and if there are any concerns, always call 911. If you think the child has gotten something, look for the bottle and make sure you can identify it and try to estimate how much has been consumed by the child. What we really want to do is make sure that we then get in touch with Poison Control and contact the child's pediatrician or primary care professional. It's always the best and let me just put in there, I think really the best thing to do is to try to prevent poisonings. That's really the best treatment is prevention.
MELANIE: Well, it absolutely is. Now, what about prevention. You know, we've talked on this show, a lot of times, Dr. O'Neill about prevention. For smaller children, keeping things up high and locked up and tamper resistant packaging and making sure paint and lead products are kept, you know, locked in a shed somewhere and these, you know, cleaning chemicals and things. What about older children? What are they likely to get into that could likely cause poisoning?
O'NEILL: You know, I think the biggest risk for our older children and adolescents would be controlled prescription medication. Things such as pain killers or something as simple as Tylenol or even the medicines that we prescribe for our children for ADHD or for older adults with other types of heart problems or types of muscle problems, muscle relaxants. So, you really have to be careful that it's always a possibility that someone could get into your medications and to keep them in a place where you can keep track of them and keep them locked up.
MELANIE: What about things that we know that are out there? Poison related pesticide poisoning. How do we protect our family from those?
O'NEILL: Well, a couple things that I would recommend families do is make sure that you identify these substances as potentially toxic because if you're not sure, then you have to make sure you don't put them into let's say a Coke bottle or into a typical type of bottle where a child may mistake that for something that is typically something they would drink like Gatorade or Coca-Cola or one of the other types of things that we commonly have around the house.
The other thing is to make sure that it's put up and locked away so that children can't have access to it and to make sure that the child is supervised. Really, some of the most important things that we could do is just be supervising our children on a regular basis.
MELANIE: So, supervising our children and you talked about the medications and, you know, pain killers and ADHD meds and such. Do we, Dr. O'Neill, talk about this with our older children? Or, does that put it in their head that maybe this is something to be curious about and maybe they want to try it?
O'NEILL: Boy, that's a really great question. I think that we have pretty good confidence that if we actually bring up the subject, we're not going to put an idea into their head that they don't already have. So, I think it's important to open those lines of communication and make sure that we talk to our children and let them know that there's stuff here that could possibly hurt you and it's not good for you. So, if you have questions, make sure the child comes and talks to the parent. Make sure things are kept out of reach so that child doesn't have a chance to get harmed by them.
MELANIE: You know, things come in pretty little packages now, Dr. O'Neill. The button batteries are in everything that we've got that's electronic that little kids want to play with and they try our iPhones and our tablets. Also, laundry detergent comes in these pretty little packets that look like candy with rainbows. What do we do about those things that we use around the house that are supposedly sort of tamper resistant?
O'NEILL: Well, you know that's also a great point that you made. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been a leader in trying to get better protection upon some of these potentially deadly substances and products. We have been in the forefront of working with the batter manufacturers to make sure that they put their batteries in blister-type packets so they're more difficult for a child to get access to, while at the same time, making it so that an older individual who may have arthritis can get to the battery. Also, talking with grandparents and parents who have electronic devices around that have button batteries to make sure that they keep them out of the way. Especially for toddlers that if they fall on the floor, make sure that they pick them up so that the toddler can't get ahold of them, put them in their mouth or even swallow it.
The same thing's been true about the particular types of products that we use in the laundry that are packets of laundry detergent that you're absolutely right They've done a great job packaging these and then make them colorful and very pretty to look at and almost like candy. I think the manufacturers, as they were doing the marketing, forgot to think about children, perhaps. Children also get into the laundry room and they're helping out with mom and they see these and they may go and open a cabinet later or they get these in their hands and before you know it, it's in their mouth. It can be very toxic to them and causes them to get really sick.
MELANIE: So, back in the day it was Syrup of Ipecac. Everybody had a bottle around their kitchen. You thought your kid swallowed some laundry detergent or some cleaning solution and you gave them the syrup so that they would throw it up. What now? You call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
MELANIE: What do you do in the meantime? We don't make them throw up anymore because what burned going down is going to burn worse coming back up. Is there something you could do while you wait for the EMS?
O'NEILL: Well, actually, the first thing I would do and, actually, this happened to me in the past, I called the Poison Control Center and there are certain things that you really don't want to have the child throw back up. For example, things that are acidic or things that have oil in them because that can cause more danger if the child were to aspirate and get those things into their lungs. So, I don't really use Syrup of Ipecac in my practice any more. The first thing I tell the parents to do is get a hold of Poison Control and follow their expert advice.
MELANIE: Nothing that we would do prophylactically while we we're waiting for that EMS. We only have about 30 seconds left, Dr. O'Neill. So give your best advice for National Poison Prevention Week for parents listening.
O'NEILL: Well, I think the best thing we can do as parents, and I'm a parent as well, and we all go through those times where we can't be everywhere, every time. I would suggest that parents go around the house, get down—believe it or not—get down on their hands and knees because that's the level that the toddler's going to be moving at. Look around and see if there's something in their line of sight that might be fun to look at; tempting; something we may have said, "don't do" before and they may want to try it. Get down, walk around on your hands and knees and look for those things that are there that we wouldn't suspect from our vantage point as a standing adult.
MELANIE: Thank you so much. You're listening to RadioMD. Stay well.