Children can be quite adventurous and curious around the house, which can get them into trouble when they encounter hazardous chemicals that we use every day. Cleaning products, medications, laundry detergents and bleach, pesticides, and lawn care products are all things adults know are harmful if used improperly or ingested, but children are often unaware of what is safe and what is not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a poison control center in the U.S. is contacted every 13 seconds about a possible poisoning or chemical ingestion. It is our responsibility to keep children safe, and to clearly explain how to avoid the dangers around them. However, accidents do happen, so when they do, it is important to react smartly and swiftly to make sure no permanent damage, injury, or death occurs.
- keep the number for Poison Control available and call
- get them to the ER
- know what chemical was ingested, and if possible, how much
- keep harmful chemicals out of reach
- induce vomiting
- ignore your own safety
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222 – Keep the number for the national poison control hotline available, and call in the event of chemical ingestion. A trained operator will offer you information on the immediate next steps during an accidental ingestion, particularly as you make your way to see a health provider.
A lot of household chemical poisonings require regimens that warrant administration and monitoring in the hospital setting. Many ERs have direct access to toxicology specialists and labs which also helps to expedite treatment and recovery from a variety of substances.
Knowing the details of the chemical ingested and the amount can help to more specifically identify treatment options as quickly and as effectively as possible. It is also important to note that medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can be hazardous as well, and should not be accessible to children. Bring the label, bottle, or even take a picture of the chemical’s container with your phone and bring that with you to the emergency room.
Make sure to keep harmful chemicals out of reach of children and stored in a safe placed; locked, if necessary. The goal is to make sure that these items are not easily accessible to children, so if kids are left to their own devices or if they escape your attention briefly, their curiosity is quelled by a locked cabinet or an item they just simply can’t reach.
Some corrosive chemicals cause damage to the oropharynx and throat on the way down, and the last thing you want is a repeated burn or injury on the way back up the esophagus. Some substances, like activated charcoal, are given orally to neutralize caustic chemicals and absorb and neutralize their reactive elements. Get the patient to the emergency room immediately. Staff there have treatment options, including gastric lavage, where a nasogastric tube is used. This tube is inserted through the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach to empty out gastric contents.
Don't wait. In the event of chemical ingestion, hurry to the nearest ER. Time has a direct effect on the amount of chemical absorbed and the negative byproducts and half-life breakdown of some chemicals.
Always try to remain calm and focus. The patient’s situation can change quickly, but your quick thinking and appropriate actions can make a tremendous difference in the event of chemical ingestion.
Make sure to properly ventilate the room or wear protective gear before exposing yourself and possibly making yourself a victim or patient as well. Keeping a clear head is important because the risk of exposure may be present as some chemicals also give off noxious fumes and gases that can be just as dangerous. Your safety is important because you’re of no help to the child if you become a victim yourself.
Prevention is key in keeping children safe and minimizing the risk of exposure to chemicals and poisoning. Carefully organizing your household items, keeping them out of reach, and putting them away after use is vital. In the event of a medical emergency due to chemical ingestion, be sure to act fast and get the child to an ER or appropriate medical facility as soon as possible. You can find out more about poisoning prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/healthyhomes/bytopic/poisoning.html