When I started in pediatrics, we gave out syrup of ipecac at the well-baby check-up to the parents of every 9-month-old infant that was carried through the door. We handed out this product to parents so they'd have it on hand to give immediately to induce vomiting if their child should ever ingest a potentially dangerous substance.
Well, times have certainly changed: We no longer give out syrup of ipecac, and we discourage parents from making a child vomit after ingesting a poison. This is because the forced vomiting can actually cause even more harm to the child in many cases.
Given that March 18-24 was National Poison Prevention Week, it seems a like a good time to do a little review.
Each year, approximately 2.4 million people--more than half of them under the age of 6--swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some important tips to help you prevent and to treat exposures to poison.
Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but are not paying attention. Children are naturally very curious, and things happen fast, so these terrible accidents can unfortunately strike any family. The most dangerous potential poisons are
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
If your child is unconscious, or is not breathing, or is having convulsions or seizures due to poison--whether through skin contact or by ingesting it--immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If your child has mild or no symptoms but has come in contact with a poison--or if you suspect that your child may have swallowed a button-cell battery--then call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Most people are naturally extra vigilant when they're with children under the age of 3 years; however, it is striking how many kids up to the age of 6 also swallow poisons. As I said above, children are curious, and things happen fast, even in the homes of the most eagle-eyed parents. I've got an inquisitive 5-year-old of my own and will be the first to admit that I need to reevaluate where some of these items are in my own home! It's a continuous process.
If you have a child 6 years of age or younger, please take a few minutes this week to look through your home while referring to these safety measures from the AAP.