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Approximately 100 children will die each year from accidental poisoning, and another 115,000 will be treated in hospital emergency rooms for poisoning. The poison control center receives more than a million calls for poisoning related to children 5 and under each year alone. Poisoning rates have declined greatly in latter years due to increased safety measures, but it still remains a widespread problem. American consumers buy about a quarter of a million different hazardous household products.

Recognizing symptoms of poisoning in children:

  • Your child is acting different than normal.

  • They are overly sleepy or overly active.

  • You see signs of a possible poisoning, such as a pill bottle lying out or cleaning products tampered with or gotten into.

First aid for poisoning:

  • The most important step is to try and identify what poison the child has consumed. Look around for any clues that will tell you, or, if the child is conscious, ask him or her. (Just know that they may not always tell you the truth, especially if they think they are in trouble.) Also determine the means of poisoning. Most common poisons will be ingested, but poisons can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin as well.

  • Try to determine the amount ingested.

  • Call Poison control. There is now a national poison control number you can call, which automatically redirects calls to the local poison control center. That number is 1-800-222-1222. Follow their instructions.

  • Remember that speed and reaction time can mean the difference between life and death. Act quickly!

  • Keep a bottle of activated charcoal on hand, but use only at the advice of poison control. Inducing vomiting can make things worse with some poisons. Ipecac syrup is no longer recommended as a home treatment.

First aid for skin, air or eye poisoning:

  • If a fluid gets into the eye, hold your child’s eyelid open and flush the eye quickly and gently underneath a faucet with plain, running water. Have someone else contact poison control, if possible, while you are flushing the eye.
  • For a skin poisoning, flush the area with water and remove any contaminated clothing. Wash the skin and hair of the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Have someone contact poison control while doing so.

  • If you suspect airborne poisoning, carry or drag the victim outside or to fresh air immediately. Call 911, and perform emergency procedures as necessary.

Preventing poisoning:

  • The easiest step is to keep poisons out of the reach of children to begin with. Follow the guidelines in our home safety section for tips on common household poisons.

  • Talk with your children about poisoning. Explain to them the dangers of certain products around your house, such as alcohol, the medicine cabinet, vitamins, and other potentially hazardous substances.

  • Follow all medicine guidelines extremely carefully when administering medication to your child. Never change the prescribed dosage on your own. When in doubt, contact your physician.

  • Never mix household cleaning products. The fumes can become deadly when mixing otherwise harmless chemicals.

  • Never call medicine or vitamins “candy.”

  • Dispose of old medicines by flushing them down the toilet.

  • When using weed killers or pesticides, read the labels carefully, as overusing could cause poisoning.

  • Keep extra watch on the children when circumstances are abnormal. A large number of poisonings occur in other people’s houses, when company is visiting, or when a parent is sick.

  • As ridiculous as this may sound, keep children fed and watered. Hungry and thirsty children are more prone to put something in their mouth, or to improvise when nothing else is made available. I’ve heard of a child draining a bottle of bleach water because she was thirsty. Lucky for her it only contained a small amount of bleach.

See also…

Child Poisoning Prevention

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