It was late and I had fallen asleep. My teenage daughter came into my bedroom to say goodnight, but first she kissed our dog sleeping on the floor. My daughter asked, “Why does the dog taste funny?” In my sleepy haze I replied, “Why are you tasting the dog?” I sat up in panic. I had applied flea medicine to the dog before bedtime. Had my daughter just ingested flea medicine? What should I do?
Accidental poisoning is a frightening topic. Kids learn by exploring with touch, smell, and taste. Many items go into a child’s mouth. Many items are poisonous including medication, plants, cleaning supplies, antifreeze, teething gel, and insecticides. The goal is to avoid these situations. You can prevent an unfortunate crisis.
During family visits, Grandmother’s purse is a poisoning risk to your child. It is often left on the floor within easy reach. It usually contains at least one medication. Accidental purse poisonings are heart-breaking and guilt-provoking but can be avoided. Place any purses well out of reach of children. Keep medication in child-resistant containers. Encourage medication to be left at home. Supervise children closely.
Annually 4,000 children and 90,000 animals ingest antifreeze. Antifreeze is used in cars to prevent fluids from freezing. Antifreeze may drip and puddle on the driveway. It has a sweet taste due to ethyl glycol. It is extremely toxic. Clean drips promptly.
Plants can be poisonous as well. Dieffenbachia and Philodendron are both great houseplants, but both are poisonous if ingested. Keep children and pets away from plants. Put plants out of the reach of children or choose non-poisonous plants for your home.
Nicotine is highly toxic when ingested and there are over 40 million smokers in the U.S. Cigarettes contain 13-30 mg of nicotine. Eating as little as 1 mg of nicotine may cause symptoms. Five mg (the amount in one butt) can poison a child. There are many forms of nicotine including vape juice, cigarettes, nicotine patches, nicotine gum, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco. Nicotine poisoning can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, seizures, and death. Call poison control and seek immediate medical care for anyone who has ingested nicotine. Keep nicotine away from children. Consider stopping smoking.
Cleaning supplies can be a source of poison as well. Dishwasher pods or detergent pods are brightly colored like candy. Windshield washer fluid, drain cleaner, and toilet bowl cleaner are especially hazardous. Store cleaning supplies in high cabinets out of the reach of curious children.
Small amounts of ingested teething gel can be dangerous. The FDA warns parents not to use teething gel containing benzocaine, as it can decrease the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream causing methemoglobinemia, which can be fatal. Instead use Infant Tylenol (as directed by your pediatric healthcare provider) and frozen teething rings to comfort a teething infant.
Other items to be cautious about include paint thinner, gasoline, oils, insecticides, and button batteries. Button batteries are extremely dangerous. As they corrode, they burn through tissue, which can cause internal bleeding. This can occur in just a couple of hours. If you feel that a child might have ingested a button battery, call the National Battery Ingestion 24-Hour Hotline at 1-800-498-8666 and seek immediate medical care.
Keep the poison control number on the fridge and in your phone: 1-800-222-1222. If you feel that poison or any non-food substance may have been ingested, call poison control immediately and seek immediate medical care. You may be directed to dial 911 or to go to the nearest emergency department. In my daughter’s case, I called poison control and followed their direction. She is fine, but I switched to an oral flea medicine for the dog. Too much drama for this mama!
Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Norfolk, as well as an Assistant Professor at ODU. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: 2nd Ed., is available on Amazon. Visit RaisingTodaysChild.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.facebook.com/RaisingTodaysChild and www.twitter.com/Rzn2dayschild.