By: Carol and Tony
Sunshine and warm weather are here. The days are longer, schools have ended, the critters are out and the flowers are blooming. Families are outside enjoying the company of one another and everyone is active. Warmer weather means one thing for the IPC …call volume is on the rise. Historically, we get about 10-20% more calls during the summer months, compared to the rest of the year. So while you’re out this summer enjoying time with family and friends it is important to be mindful of these common summer substances that can be potentially poisonous:
Top 5 Most Common Summer Poison Exposures:
Most sunscreen exposures occur by one of two methods: 1) kids get a mouthful right from the bottle or tube, or 2) after an application, they rub their eye(s) or put a recently lotioned hand in their mouth. Most sunblock lotions are pleasantly scented. They usually have a fruity or tropical smell, which can lead little ones to think it may taste as good as it smells. Luckily, sunscreen is minimally toxic in a small accidental exposure.
2. Insect repellents/Insecticides
There are 2 types of products that fit in this category: insect repellents for personal use, and insecticides to kill bugs inside and outside the house (especially the bugs chewing on your meticulously planted garden).
A common type of insect repellent is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET). It comes in an array of formulations: aerosol sprays, pump sprays, sticks, creams and lotions. Concentrations range from 7-10% for safe use in infants, up to 99% for deep wilderness use. When used properly, DEET products are safe and effective to keep mosquitoes and other buggers from biting. However, there are case reports of serious toxicity including vomiting, fever, coma and seizures following chronic over-application or large acute ingestions. Picaridin is now commonly used because of perceived DEET adverse effects. The CDC also recommends Picaridin, which has similar efficacy to DEET, but does not have the reported adverse reactions of the DEET.
The most common group of insecticides is called pyrethroids. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals based on the natural substance, pyrethrum, which is found in the chrysanthemum flower. Pyrethroids have a much wider margin of safety when compared to other insecticides such as organophosphates, carbamates, organochlorines, arsenic, etc, but can still cause toxicity in certain people and/or in large amounts.
Remember the difference: insect repellents (products like Off®, Cutter®, Repel®) are meant to be used on human skin, but insecticides (such as Raid®, Sevin®, Ortho®) are not, and generally have a higher order of toxicity than insect repellents. Always call IPC for product specific medical advice if you/someone you know has been exposed to these products in a manner that might cause an unwanted and/or unexpected reaction.
3. Pool Chemicals
The most common pool chemicals involved in accidental poisoning are those that contain chlorine. Chlorine fumes are a significant respiratory irritant. Always take caution when using these chemicals: open and use them in a very well ventilated area, wear eye and skin protection, and never sniff a chemical to see how potent it is or mix chemicals unless specifically directed by product labels.
In summer months, ingestions of indoor and outdoor plants increase because green growing things are everywhere this time of year. Fortunately most tastes or mouthfuls of leaves or berries do not result in significant toxicity. However, there are a few plants that pose a more serious risk if eaten by small children. Examples include
- Diffenbachia (swelling and irritation of the mouth and throat)
- Yew berries (irregular heart rhythms, seizures)
- Foxglove or lily of the valley (irregular heart rhythms, slowing of the heart)
- Pokeweed (vomiting, diarrhea, headache)
- Nightshade (vomiting, altered heart rate, neurologic effects)
For more information about poisonous plants indigenous to Illinois go to: http://illinoispoisoncenter.org/poison-plant-poster .
5. Bites and Stings
Most biting and stinging arthropods, arachnids, hymenoptera, snakes, bats, ticks, and other flying and slithering things become more active in the warmer months. Most insect or spider bites result in minor local effects, but some (such as black widow and brown recluse) can cause potentially serious envenomations. Non-venomous snakebites are a nuisance, but venomous snake bites can cause serious symptoms including need for hospital admission and an anti-venom. Always call the IPC for a bite or sting, and we can help you determine the best course of action.
Enjoy the warm weather out there!