|Do you know which of your medicines could kill a child? |
By Eileen Nechas
A whole bottleful of just about any medicine can kill a small child. But did you know that some commonly prescribed medications are so potent that just one or two pills (or a teaspoon or two if it's a liquid) can have the same deadly consequences? And it's not just pills that grandma might carry in her purse, but medicines you or another one of your children may be taking.
The majority of accidental poisonings occur in children under 6 years of age. There are more than 1 million toxic exposures each year in children younger than 20 years, and, tragically, some of these resulted in death. While knowing the 14 dangerous "one-pill killers" below is critical, many medicines that a toddler swallows can cause an adverse reaction, even if it is not life threatening. In fact, 90 percent of toddler ingestions are managed at home. Still, says G. Randall Bond, M.D., medical director of the Drug and Poison Information Center of the Children's Hospital of Cincinnati in Ohio, "I want all kids to be protected from harmful amounts of medications, whether they're common over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen, aspirin or cold remedies, or prescription drugs."
Little kids just naturally put stuff in their mouths. When that "stuff" is a medication, it could mean a hasty trip to the emergency room. "Two scenarios can present themselves to parents," says Dr. Bond, who is also a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "In one case, you may see your child take a pill or two. Even if your child has no symptoms, you need to talk to the poison control center immediately." There is one toll-free poison control number (1-800-222-1222) for the whole nation. Post this number near each telephone in your house and on your refrigerator. No matter where you live (and even when you are away from home), you can dial this number 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to reach the poison control center nearest you. "They'll know whether you need to go straight to the ER or if it's safe to watch your child at home," says Dr. Bond.
""In the other case, you may not know for sure if your child has swallowed something, but he's acting abnormally."
Not all symptoms mean your child is facing a life-threatening situation, however. "Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain can come from poisoning or from an illness. Contacting your doctor may be all you need to do," says Dr. Bond.
""Life-threatening symptoms include unresponsiveness, coma, not breathing, pale color, limpness or seizures. With those symptoms, you don't wait to call the poison center or your doctor. You just call 911 [or your local emergency number] for an ambulance."
Check our Dangerous 14 list to see if any of these potential killers are in your home. Then see Pill Proofing Your Home to learn how to best protect your children from swallowing the wrong stuff.