My 2-year-old grandson nearly died when he ate some aspirin tablets. I’m wondering whether you would address this topic, for many people have young children to care for.
Many medicines purchased over the counter can be fatal if taken in overdose amounts or by young children. The flavoring and color of some liquid medicines can make them attractive to small children, particularly if they resemble the appearance of candy.
Aspirin can prove lethal to small children by causing severe acidosis and metabolic disturbances. Iron tablets and, of course, sleeping pills or medicines prescribed for high blood pressure or diabetes also can be acutely poisonous to children.
Children will taste and swallow strange substances. I will never forget a 2-year-old boy who died of arsenic poisoning just as he crossed the threshold of the hospital. His father had been laying a patio and was sprinkling an arsenic-containing compound on the prepared pad as he laid each flagstone. The little boy walked up behind him, and before the father realized what was happening, took a swig of the solution. The father called the doctor, who ill-advisedly told them to “watch” the lad. The parents did, but only to see him become gravely ill. Then, in a frantic rush, they brought him to the hospital—but it was too late to save him.
Children have been know to drink kerosene or gasoline, or sometimes they just cough and inhale the liquid and succumb to what is called “liquid pneumonia.” Highly corrosive substances that are used to unplug clogged drains can cause severe damage to the esophagus and stomach, and may severely damage, if not kill, a child. Alcohol—especially methylated spirits—can cause blindness, and carbon tetrachloride causes acute liver necrosis.
If a person swallows something poisonous, it’s vital to call a local medical emergency number immediately. Make sure you can give the person’s age, the name of the substance ingested, how much was taken, when it was swallowed, whether the person has vomited, and how long it will take to get to the nearest medical facility.
In the United States a call to 1-800-222-1222 will reach the regional poison control center; a call to 9-1-1 will connect you to emergency services. Be aware of your region’s poison control center, and keep contact information readily available. Follow the instructions of the poison control center. They have much more precise information at their fingertips than does the average family doctor.
Inducing of vomiting should be done only on medical advice, because some substances—such as gasoline or kerosene—may be dangerous when vomited. Never induce vomiting in an unconscious patient. If a person stops breathing, maintain an open airway and breathe for them with artificial respiration. Take the poison container and any vomitus to the hospital.
Keep poisoned persons with their head down, lying on their left side, while transporting to the hospital, so as to avoid inhalation of any vomitus.
Poison-proofing the house is necessary when there are small children who either live in or visit the home. Closets should be fitted with childproof latches or locks. Dangerous substances must be stored out of the reach of toddlers. This means a serious reappraisal of substances kept beneath the sink, such as chlorine bleach, dishwasher detergents, rust remover, strong acids, and alkali. The medicine cabinet should be high and locked.
The garage is another dangerous area for the storage of substances such as gasoline, paint thinner, and charcoal lighter fluid. Never place poisons in bottles that have held fruit drinks or soda, as children may easily confuse them with the real thing.
Being extremely careful with anything that can cause harm to children is the key to prevention.