At the stroke of midnight on Friday, December 31st, many of us will be ringing in 2011 with the familiar phrase “happy new year!” while sipping our favorite alcoholic beverages. However, being oblivious to where you leave your unfinished drink can result in a very scary start to the New Year if your child gets alcohol poisoning.
Acute alcohol poisoning in children is not as well recognized as other problems associated with alcohol consumption, such as drunk driving, alcohol addiction, or the myriad of medical consequences that include liver damage. The thought of a groggy, wobbly, babbling toddler who has just consumed someone’s unattended cocktail may sound like a benign or even funny situation, but it is no laughing matter. Alcohol poisoning in children is a serious concern because children are more susceptible to its depressant effects than adults. High levels of blood alcohol in children may cause slowing of breathing, seizures, extremely low blood sugar, and coma.
Intuitively, one may think that products such as straight 100-proof (50% alcohol, “hard liquor”) are most hazardous to children due to their high alcohol concentrations. While indeed they can be, in most cases, children would find these products quite distasteful due to the burning sensation in the mouth and throat that occurs when ingesting hard liquor – and usually don’t consume a very large amount. Sweet-tasting beverages like cocktails made with fruit juices or soda, wine coolers, and beers have the potential to be more dangerous because a child is likely to drink a larger amount.
What you’ve probably heard on many alcohol advertisements is an admonishment to “drink responsibly.” To this, we would like add the strong recommendation to “store responsibly!” In other words – lock the stuff up! Doing so will prevent curious adolescents and teens from experimenting with alcohol, and prevent the accidental poisoning of inquisitive toddlers. We’re all familiar with the “bar” set-up atop the washer/dryer and the dozens of half-filled cups scattered about during holiday parties, and since children love imitating adults, letting your guard down during festivities may be putting them at risk. Don’t let an accidental poisoning dampen your holiday celebration.
Take these few steps to prevent an alcohol-related poisoning this New Year’s Eve and throughout the year:
- Keep all alcoholic beverages out of reach of children
- Clean up and remove all unfinished beverages frequently
- Educate children regarding the dangers of alcohol ingestion
- Make non-alcoholic alternatives available for kids to enjoy
If you suspect an ingestion of an alcoholic beverage by a child, handle this situation as you would any other poisoning emergency by immediately calling the Illinois Poison Center’s hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
– Your friends at the Illinois Poison Center
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