When To Medicate and How To Avoid Dangerous Mistakes

ome weeks the news falls into themes. This week it seems to be the theme of medications and part and parcel with that is safety. This week is National Poison Control Week. Do you know what to do for an accidental ingestion? Do you know how to safely store medications and home chemicals?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some very useful information to help you answer these common questions as well as many others:

Each year, approximately 2.4 million people – more than half under age 6 – swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance. As poison prevention, and appropriate, immediate treatment to poison contact or ingestion, are critical to keeping your child safe, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some important tips.

To poison proof your home:

Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but not paying attention. The most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil. Be especially vigilant when there is a change in routine. Holidays, visits to and from grandparents’ homes, and other special events may bring greater risk of poisoning if the usual safeguards are defeated or not in place.
* Store medicine, cleaners, paints/varnishes and pesticides in their original packaging in locked cabinets or containers, out of sight and reach of children.
* Install a safety latch – that locks when you close the door – on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products.
* Purchase and keep all medicines in containers with safety caps. Discard unused medication.
* Never refer to medicine as “candy” or another appealing name.
* Check the label each time you give a child medicine to ensure proper dosage.
* Never place poisonous products in food or drink containers.
* Keep coal, wood or kerosene stoves in safe working order.
* Maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.


If your child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures due to poison contact or ingestion, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If your child has come in contact with poison, and has mild or no symptoms, call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222

Different types and methods of poisoning require different, immediate treatment:

* Swallowed poison – Remove the item from the child, and have the child spit out any remaining substance. Do not make your child vomit. Do not use syrup of ipecac.
* Skin poison — Remove the child’s clothes and rinse the skin with lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes.
* Eye poison — Flush the child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a steady stream of room temperature water into the inner corner.
* Poisonous fumes – Take the child outside or into fresh air immediately. If the child has stopped breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and do not stop until the child breathes on his or her own, or until someone can take over.

(© American Academy of Pediatrics, 2/08)

I moderate some website forums and I’m always amazed how many questions I get about ingestions and possible poisonings. If you are concerned about something your child may have swallowed, don’t post your concern on a website board, call your pediatrician ASAP, 911 or Poison Control at: 1-800-222-1222. And, as the information above states, if your child is having any scary symptoms, call 911. While for most substances time is on your side, sometimes it isn’t and that is when seconds start to matter most.

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