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Children and Accidental Poisonings: What You NEED to Know

?????????????????Keeping your children safe, this is the goal of every parent. We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential but with over 350 children a day in the United States ages 0 to 19 being treated in emergency departments, and two children dying, as a result of being poisoned, the concerns of children and accidental poisonings are more prevalent than ever. These concerns are always the topic of extended discussion during our training classes both here at the fire department and in our community training classes and come down 3 main points.

  1. Precautions
  2. Identification
  3. Action

1. PRECAUTIONS.

Taking the steps before something bad happens is always the first step in any plan to keep children safe. Children are naturally curious and don’t yet know the dangers involved with chemicals and may easily confuse a glass cleaner or floor cleaner with their favorite drinks as well as confusing medicines and pills for candy. Properly storing and locking away chemicals and medicines in special child safe storage containers is one of the best ways to keep naturally curious children away from these dangers. Along with securing chemicals, knowing who to call in an emergency is key as well. Placing emergency numbers around all phones and in all cell phones is a great precaution to take as well. 9-1-1 is always an easy number to remember but placing the number for the national poison control centers 800-222-1222 and any other numbers and information is advised as well.

2. IDENTIFICATION.

Identifying the signs and symptoms of a child that has a definite or suspected poison ingestion are of the upmost importance. Some of the signs of poisoning: Besides finding an open container or bottle, look for these signs if you suspect your child has swallowed something dangerous:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips (a sign your child drank something caustic)
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Burns, stains, and smells on your child, her clothes, or elsewhere in the house
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other strange behavior
  • Drowsiness, Dizziness, or weakness
  • Breathing problems
  • Rashes
  • Blue Lips or Skin ( cyanosis )

3. ACTION.


If your child is awake and stable:

  • Remain Calm.
  • Don’t give ipecac syrup or try to make them throw up — doctors say this can do more harm to your little one. Instead, call the poison-control center at 800-222-1222
  • Tell the person who answers as much information as you know: What you think your child swallowed, when, and how much. (It helps if you have the bottle that contains the poisonous substance.) Then follow instructions on what to do.
  • If the poison-control expert tells you to go to the ER and you have the substance container, then take that with you to show the ER doctor exactly what your child ingested. Calling 9-1-1 is recommended in an emergency, driving to the ER is not recommended in an emergency due to the lack of focus on the road and the increased possibility of accidents.

If your child is unconscious and not breathing:

  • Call 9-1-1 and give the information requested
  • Start CPR and wait for Emergency response.
  • Do NOT attempt to drive to the ER.

There is no way to prevent every possible scenario, but it is possible to be prepared in case of an emergency and as always, a little preparation goes a long way.

Be Safe

Greg

Arts & Crafts and Poison Control: How to Keep Kids Safe

Did you ever notice how delicious some of those colored markers smell? Ever tempted to taste one? Ok, admit it…you’d never do it, but still you can’t say you haven’t at least thought about it. So, can we blame the 4 year old who thinks that the blueberry marker might just taste as good as it smells?

Unfortunately we sometimes forget that those pretty colored paints and crayons and markers look and smell so good because they’re made up of chemicals that are designed to make them look and smell good. And because little kids are attracted to bright, colorful things, and love to touch and taste (who doesn’t), we need to be extra cautious to make sure that glues, paints, crayons and other arts and crafts supplies are handled with care.

According to the Minnesota Poison Control: In a single year, the nation’s 57 poison control centers received more than 35,000 calls about exposures to art products; of these, more than 26,000 calls concerned children younger than 6. And the Virginia Poison Center highlights this list of art supplies to keep an eye on:

  • Chalk contains calcium, and swallowing some typically does not cause poisoning. More serious problems can occur if the chalk lodges in the throat or is breathed into the windpipe, blocking the airway and causing coughs, difficulty breathing, or wheezing.
  • Water-soluble markers usually don’t cause harm. Most other felt-tip markers don’t cause poisoning if small amounts of the ink are swallowed. A few markers may contain aniline dyestuffs, which, if a large amount is swallowed, can be poisonous.
  • Erasers are not considered poisonous but could cause blockage or injury if lodged in the throat or breathed into the windpipe.
  • School-type glues (such as Elmer’s®) generally are considered nonpoisonous. “Super glues” (such as Krazy Glue®) do not cause serious poisoning if a mouthful is swallowed; however, they cause mucous membranes and skin surfaces to stick together instantly. If “super glue” gets into the eye, the eyelids can be sealed together, resulting in lid injury and loss of lashes. Worse, “super glue” can cause serious damage to the eye’s cornea.
  • If children swallow small amounts of water-based paint – including latex, tempera and poster paint – poisoning is not likely. Some latex paints do contain measurable amounts (5-10%) of glycols, so poisoning could happen if someone swallows a very large amount. Oil-based paints contain solvents that can cause acute poisoning if swallowed.

The National Capital Poison Center recommends the following safety tips:

  • Read the label carefully, and follow all instructions for safe use and disposal.
  • Discard products that have passed their expiration dates.
  • Don’t eat or drink while using art products.
  • Wash up – skin, equipment and environment – after use.
  • Never use products to paint skin or decorate food unless the product is specifically labeled for that use.
  • Store art products in their original containers locked up and out of the reach of children.
  • Handle art products in accordance with your program’s guidelines for safe chemical use and storage.

Virginia Poison Center also suggests that “when choosing art supplies for use by children, consider the product’s certification. Many art supplies are imprinted with the seals of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute. Products with the AP (Approved Product) seal are best for use by young children. Products with the CL (Cautionary Label) Seal are more appropriate for adult use.”

Finally…always better safe than sorry.

If a young artist eats a crayon or some glue, or gets paint in their eyesORyou’re simply unsure whether or not your child has been exposed to (or eaten) a toxic level of art supplies, use

  • the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance or
  • call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice or information.

For a more detailed description of arts and crafts Do’s and Don’ts, here is the official Art and Craft Safety Guide from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Some time ago, Audra, one of our editors, shared with us her story about her wonderful experience with “edible play dough.” What about you?? Ever called poison control for an arts and crafts mishap?

Daffodils and Parmesan and Kids…Who Knew??

Spring is here. Flowers are in bloom. In Connecticut Daffodils - beautiful but dangerousone local town celebrates the arrival of spring with an annual daffodil festival. In fact – thousands of flowers. I wonder how many people know that the bulbs of the plant are among the most poisonous of all plants in the US.

And who doesn’t like a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on- well in my house, on just about everything. And I like the bright inviting colors of the packaging- inviting me to indulge. Unfortunately Comet cleanser has equally colorful packaging. And certainly you never accidentally put your comet in the fridge and the Parmesan under the sink but look at products the way a child would. They are drawn to bright colors and to things that Mom and Dad handle and use.

Antifreeze used to smell really nice and became a common poison to our animals and kids. Manufacturers are no longer allowed to add perfumes to make the product smell better. Believe it or not, antifreeze performance does not improve with the addition of perfume and without it kids and dogs are safer.

So as you go about enjoying spring, getting back out into the world, maybe doing a little “post-pandemic” spring cleaning- check to make sure that your cabinets, both kitchen and bath have child proof locks. In the garage double check that kids can’t get in or that products are well out of reach. Also make sure that shelving is very secure and won’t fall over onto curious, climbing kids. And finally check your fridge for Comet- just to be safe.

Accidental poisoning CAN be prevented- take a few minutes to check things out- don’t guess, be sure.

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Editors Note: This post originally ran in May of 2010 and was written by our former PedSafe EMS Expert Jim Love. Our thanks to him for some wonderful reminders

Making Play Dough – A Family First Aid Fiasco

Reading the post, First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know, from Kristin Bailey Murphy reminded me of one of our own first aid experiences. Kids may be accident magnets…but it doesn’t help when Mom and Dad have a “dumb parent moment”!

Our Emergency

This first aid fiasco was rooted in “mommy-guilt”. When my son was two years old I started taking him to crafty enrichment classes at our local children’s museum every Saturday. I was working a lot during that period and this was a chance to spend time together while also feeling like I was doing something for his development.

It was in these classes that I learned the recipe for homemade play dough. Wow…not only could we share these classes together….but I could give my young son safe, edible (what doesn’t a two-year old eat?) play dough THAT I MADE MYSELF! But, seriously, the stuff is really easy and fun to make – and even at age two Elliott could help in making play dough, since you have to knead the dough while it cools.

No, the issue came from me trying to add that little something extra – a little more mommy-love. The museum jazzed up their dough with glitter and some peppermint oil for fragrance. So I went out and bought a few different essential oils – for variety. On the particular day in question, with Elliott standing on a chair at the kitchen counter helping me as I started making play dough, I decided to try cinnamon oil. Only the lid was really tight. My husband was nearby so I asked him to open the bottle (one of several great husband roles!) – which he promptly did. But I didn’t notice since I was occupied by congealing play dough in a pot on the stove. And he didn’t realize that I didn’t notice. Communication breakdown! But our 2-year old noticed…and promptly poured concentrated food-grade cinnamon oil all over himself. Essential oils, like cinnamon oil, can be toxic to the skin in high concentrations and can result in itching, burning, redness and inflammation. Suddenly we had a screaming child in the kitchen – and had to deal with a poison control situation!

What To Do (and Not To Do!)

We knew we had to get the oil off his skin quickly – and keep him from spreading it to other areas like his face, since he had it on his hands as well. My husband stripped off his clothes immediately and held his arms down while rushing him to the bathroom. In the meantime I was calling our local Poison Control Center.

Since he was so young our first reaction was to put him in the bath, but as soon as the water started to pool around him we realized our mistake. This wouldn’t wash away the oil. It might just get it on more of his body. And that’s just what the Poison Control experts said. They recommended flushing water over the affected area for a full 20 minutes, especially since he had a definite red rash where his skin had come in contact with the oil. To best accomplish this and to soothe Elliott, my husband stripped down and got into the shower as well. That way he could be sure of the water temperature and that the right skin areas were in the water flow. Thankfully the shower had an almost immediate effect. The crying stopped very quickly – and after the full 20 minutes there were no lasting marks or redness. But for several years our son did have an aversion to “cimmomon”!

How To Be (Better) Prepared

Obviously keep all essential oils out of the reach of children – and be careful when using them in the presence of kids. Something we became acutely aware of! As Kristin pointed out in her post, also be sure to have the number of your local Poison Control prominently displayed. But if you need to find it quickly – like we did – just look on the first page of your white or yellow pages.

And here is the infamous play dough recipe. Despite this incident we’ve had many years of safe fun and success with it.

Homemade Play Dough

1 Cup Flour

1 Cup Water

1 Tbs Vegetable Oil

½ Cup Salt

1 Tsp Cream of Tartar

A few drops of Food Coloring or Essential Oil (e.g. Peppermint Oil) {optional}

Glitter {optional}

Cook over medium heat until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and becomes play dough in consistency (add glitter part way through this process, before the dough becomes too thick). Remove from pan and knead until cool. Keeps 3 months unrefrigerated in a sealed zip-closure bag.

Warning! Your Kids & Grandkids Think Gummy Meds Are Delicious

Mommies and Daddies, Grandmas and Grandpas, listen up. There are many prescription and non-prescription medications kept around the home that could be a danger for your children/grandchildren should they find these and “taste” them.

One of the more common of these “medicines” include the variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements found in homes now. While most vitamins are “benign” when inappropriately ingested, there are some that might cause problems in children who ingest large amounts, such as vitamin D, A, and certain minerals in excess. Not all supplements and “alternative” medical cures have been regulated by our FDA and therefore the correct dosages of these have not been calculated. While ingestion of a single chewable, gummy or regular tablet would probably be OK in a child, it is most of the time impossible to say how many have been consumed. As a result, even in adults, the dosage is not accurate and this is magnified in a smaller lighter- weight child. Therefore, these should be kept out of the reach of children.

Also among the most common of these are the pain relievers- such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Aspirin, fortunately, is not as popular as it used to be, but was responsible for a good proportion of accidental poisonings in children. This medication in excess caused severe derangements in hydration and acid/base balance in children and occasionally led to death. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) in excess could lead to kidney problems and possibly go on to kidney dysfunction and failure, while acetaminophen, also in excess, has been responsible for liver problems and possible liver failure and death. Treatment for any of these “poisonings” is not 100% effective and so, like all other issues, prevention is the best medicine. The problem with these meds is that they are very common in households and are considered to be “benign” so efforts to hide them are not realized. Also, we can’t forget that “normal dosages” for these drugs vary with age and weight, and children are at much higher risk than adults for complications at much lower doses. This rule holds for all medications and drugs.

The stronger pain medications that could be found around the home after surgery or injury are far more dangerous in that they are almost all depressants and can slow down heart rate and respirations to the point of coma and death.

Specific medications for specific ailments; high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc. should always be kept locked up as, while these medications do a very good job for those who need them, can cause problems of varying nature if taken by those people (children) who do not need them. And again the rule of age and weight applies here also.

Antibiotics are found around the home when they are being used or if they are “saved to be used another day”. This is a very poor practice, but not uncommon, as the price of these drugs keeps going up- throw away any unused antibiotics. Unless a person (child) is allergic to these medications, or consumes very large amounts they do not cause as many problems as the medications mentioned above.

As a rule, keep any medication and vitamins, minerals and supplements out of the reach of children and locked in a safe place- assume that any one or more of these could cause serious problems for your children or grandchildren.

If the child is found near an open bottle of any medication, particularly if there are traces of that medicine in or around his/her mouth or pills are found lying on the floor nearby, assume the worst and call poison control (everyone should have the phone number of local poison control centers nearby) and then the Doctor. Have the bottle of the medicine in front of you when you call (if possible) so that you can answer any questions that are asked. Remember that prevention is the best “cure” for poisonings because there is often no good way of treating these problems after the fact.

US Toll-Free Poison Help Line

1-800-222-1222

Call is free and confidential

Connects you with your local poison control center

Kids and Household Chemicals: How to Avoid a Trip to the ER

How many of us here are guilty of wanting a clean home? Or a clean classroom for our children? Or even a clean car? Please raise your hands. I am hoping that all of you raised your hands and said I do I do. Keeping the areas that your children live in and frequent clean and as germ-free as possible is an obsession of just about every parent I know. We use hand sanitizer every time we touch or think we may have touched something and we use sanitizing wipes to wipe down every surface that our kids touch and then we wipe down our kids. It’s a never ending cycle. The bottom line being that we want our kids areas clean. There is nothing wrong with having these areas clean but aside from living in a bubble, this means that you are going to have to clean and this inevitably means using some form of chemical or chemicals and that is where the danger starts.

According to Yahoo Health and Wellness, more than 7 million accidental poisonings occur each year and 75% of those involve children under age 6. Injuries vary from minor such as itching or irritation to more severe injuries such as breathing difficulties, internal injuries and sometimes even death. Household poisonings typically involve medicines, household products and cosmetics that were left out, unlocked and easily accessible. Some of the packaging and labels on these products is very close in color and animation to some of the foods our kids love to eat and is many times confused as a snack or drink when it is in fact a chemical such as glass cleaner. The whole key to trying to avoid these terrible situations is prevention. A little planning now can make all the difference later.

Some Poison Prevention Tips:

  • Keep medicines and chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard or childproof chemical lock box.
  • Wherever possible, buy products in child resistant containers
  • Always store chemicals in their original containers
  • Dispose of unwanted medicines and chemicals safely
  • Never store chemicals near Food to avoid possible confusion.
  • Write this down and memorize it: Poison Control 1-800-222-1222

What if I am unsure about what has happened and need help? I will tell you what I tell everyone who has a “what if” question about injuries. Call 911. The dispatchers can help you while the emergency crew is on the way and may even be in contact with poison control at the same time.

Kids are naturally curious and explore every nook and cranny of their homes and will unfortunately find anything you have left lying about or unlocked. While we cannot stop every injury from household items we can lessen the blow by spending some time on prevention and educating our children as to what is safe and what is not.

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