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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
Nine Things You Don't Want your Child to Ingest or Inhale
safety and effectiveness of acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) is
well established. The most common mistake is that parents put
medications in a convenient location (and accessible to the
child), so they can easily give the medication during a period
of illness. Parents may fail to read and understand the label
instructions, use of an incorrect measuring device (for example,
dispensing the more concentrated infant drops by
use of an adult preparation for a child. Some parents mistakenly
use acetaminophen with an over-the-counter, combination product
without realizing that the combination product (often sold as
flu, cold, sinus nr allergy formulations) also contains acetaminophen.
you can take: Be sure to put all medicine away each time
you use it, preferably in a locked cabinet. Dispense medicine
only with the dropper or measuring cup that came with the
bottle, and read the label to determine the correct dose. Read
the list of “active ingredients” for each medication,
particularly cold, sinus and flu medications, which often
a recent eight-year period, iron ingestions caused nearly
one-third of the deaths in children due to ingestion —making
iron the most common cause of pediatric ingestion deaths.
Despite this, iron remains a common household product, and many
people are not aware that iron can be a very toxic substance in
high doses. Iron can be found in many children’s vitamins,
also in much higher concentrations in adult vitamins, especially
prenatal vitamins, as well as in liquid and tablet formulations
of iron alone. These medications may be colorful,
character-shaped chewables, or tiny coated brightly-colored
tablets which resemble candies. A child who ingests iron may
initially have vomiting or other gastrointestinal symptoms,
which then may subside temporarily, falsely reassuring
caregivers. In the stage which follows this apparent recovery,
children who have ingested iron may progress within 12 to 48
hours to gastrointestinal bleeding, liver failure and even
1997, regulations went into effect which required that pills
which contain more than 30 mg. of iron each be individually
packaged, for example in blister packs, thereby increasing the
length of time it would take for a child to have a serious
ingestion. Simply being aware that iron is a dangerous substance
to ingest can increase the vigilance of adults regarding storage
and handing of this medication.
you can take: Never
override safe packaging features like child-proof caps and
are dangerous substances found in products such as baby oil,
suntan oil, bubble bath, lotions, make-up, lamp oil and
furniture polish —products that aren’t required to be in
child-resistant packaging. They are generally low viscosity
items, so easily drinkable, and they are easily aspirated (which
means that they
go down the “wrong
tube”— i.e., into the trachea instead of the esophagus).
Aspiration is the main problem, because it causes a horrible
chemical reaction (pneumonitis) which can be deadly.
you can take: Limit
kids’ access to these things, nearly all of which contain
hydrocarbons: baby oil, suntan oil, bubble bath, lotion, liquid
makeup, lamp oil and furniture polish. If a child swallows any
of these items, DO NOT induce vomiting, which can increase the
chance of aspiration.
small round batteries are found in many children’s sing-along
books, and if swallowed can cause severe
gastrointestinal-damage. Technology that focuses on electronic
miniaturization has led to the increased use of button batteries
in other products as well (e.g., greeting cards, musical ties,
watches, calculators, cameras, hearing aids and games). Not only
young children are at risk for this ingestion. In one study, a
surprising 24% of children who swallowed button batteries were
in the 5 to 12 year age range. Most of the time when children
swallow these batteries, they will pass through the person
without any problem, just as many other swallowed foreign bodies
would. Occasionally, however, severe complications and even some
deaths have been reported. This generally occurs when the
batteries become stuck in the esophagus or intestine, leaking
alkaline electrolytes which cause an internal chemical burn.
you can take:
and dispose of all button batteries. If your child does swallow
a button battery, he or she should go to a hospital emergency
room immediately to be evaluated with an x-ray, since the damage
from a button battery can occur quickly.
is found in mouthwash as well as alcoholic beverages. Although
it is not common, children can drink enough mouthwash (which can
be tasty) to make them seriously ill or even kill them. Popular
adult mouthwashes contain between 14% and 27% alcohol. By
comparison, beer contains 5% to 7% alcohol, and most wines 12%
to 14%. It is for this reason that mouthwashes now have
childproof caps. In addition, alcohol-containing drinks,
especially those mixed with sweet beverages (juices and soda)
can be very attractive to children.
you can take:
on mouthwashes, and be sure to dispose of unused alcoholic
beverages without delay.
lead levels can cause brain damage, growth problems, kidney
problems and gastrointestinal symptoms, and even modestly
elevated lead levels can cause learning and behavioral problems.
The most common sources for lead exposure are paint, dirt and
water. You can tell if there is lead paint in your home if you
know when the home was built. About two-thirds of the homes
built before 1940, and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to
1960 contain lead-based paint. Some homes built between 1960 and
1978 may also contain lead paint. Most paint made after 1978
contains no intentionally added lead.
sources of lead include leaded gasoline~ and plumbing materials
generally used in older homes (lead pipes or copper pipes with
iron soldering) which can allow lead to leach into drinking
you can take: Have children wash their hands before a
meal, periodically rinse off their toys, encourage them to play
in grassy areas of the yard or playground. If you have older
plumbing in your home, run cold water for about a minute before
drinking it, and do not drink water which comes out of the tap
hot (hot water can help leach lead out of the pipes and into the
water.) Make certain that infants, children and pregnant women
are not in a home where renovations are taking place.
Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in children under
18 months of age, second-hand smoke causes 150,000 to 300,000
cases of lower respiratory tract infection (bronchitis and
pneumonia) each year. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are
at higher risk of having middle ear infections, asthma symptoms,
and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
you can take:
Talk to your
doctor about the best methods to quit smoking. Be clear with
family and friends that smoking is not permitted in any home or
car in which your child spends time.
its reputation as a poisonous plant, the poinsettia has only
been reported to kill one person (in 1919), and its effects
are probably more irritating to the mouth and throat than
deadly. There are a number of other common plants, however,
that can be dangerous if ingested. These include lily of the
valley (ingesting leaves and flowers can cause an irregular
heartbeat, mental confusion, and digestive upset),
rhododendron and azalea (all parts
of these shrubs are highly poisonous, causing nausea,
vomiting, difficulty breathing and coma) and yew (foliage is
more toxic than berries, causing death usually without warning
you can take: All plants should be out of the reach of small
children as they can cause choking even if they are not toxic.
To see if you have any poisonous plants at home, read the list
posted on www.safekids.org.
gas results in more fatal unintentional poisonings in this
country than any other agent. In fact, carbon monoxide is
responsible for more than 500 unintentional deaths in the
U.S. each year. This gas is odorless and colorless. The
majority of these toxic exposures occur in the winter months,
and the most common source of carbon monoxide poisoning in the
home is due to non-vented supplemental heaters. Other sources
are car exhaust fumes and charcoal grills.
you can take: Buy
carbon monoxide detectors to install in your home. Avoid
exposing yourself or your family to car exhaust fumes by never
falling asleep in a car that is running, and never leaving a car
a closed attached garage.
should check if extra ventilation is needed when they enclose
heating equipment to gain additional living space, and when they
do any major renovation to the home. Never burn charcoal in an
enclosed space (such as a home, garage or tent) as there is a
high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, even if doors or windows
are open or fans are operating. Because people who are sleeping
cannot recognize the early effects of carbon monoxide poisoning,
space heaters should be turned off and fires put out in the fireplace
/ wood stove while people are sleeping.
adapted from an article that appeared
in the October 2003 issue of San Diego Family and posted on
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
Please read our full disclaimer.