The blog series “My Child Ate…” continues this week with us taking a look at the top ten things children are getting into around the house. Each year, poison centers receive over one million calls involving children ages five and under. Have you ever wondered what in the world kids are getting into? Well check out our top 10 list below:
- Cosmetics/Personal Care Products: “It’s pretty and pink. It’s easy to open, and looks like a fruit drink.” These may be the very thoughts trending through your thirsty three-year-old child’s mind as they take a gulp of nail polish remover. This group is a catch all category from mouthwash to body soaps/lotions to makeup products, and if they can reach it, they can eat it! We need to be aware when storing these items in our homes. Our main toxicity concern in this category is related to ingredients such as alcohol, simple detergents, or the product’s oily nature.
- Analgesics (Pain Relievers): As adults we carry these around with us literally all the time making them too easy for children to grab and eat. Many children’s products are marketed as tasty fruit flavored liquids and chewable tablets, in which case, your child may become “Dora the Explorer” in the medicine cabinet trying to get more of the candy-like substance. Some analgesics are combination products containing strong narcotics that can be very dangerous to a child. Depending on the agent and dose, damage to organs, such as the liver and kidneys, is possible.
- Cleaning Substances: When we think about cleaning products, we recall a poison center case involving a frantic mother who found her four-year twins in the bathtub laughing hysterically. They were washing each other’s hair with foaming bathroom cleaner! The hazards of cleaning substances range from minor to severe irritation or chemical burns to the skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract. Various cleaners are found in easily accessible areas throughout your house, for example, under the kitchen sink, bathroom vanities, laundry rooms, garages, basements, and closets. These products may be colored or have an odor that attracts children to play with them. It is pertinent to keep cleaning substances out of the reach of your children because you know kids really do the “darndest” things!
- Foreign Bodies: As Carol mentioned in the previous “My Child Ate… Poop” blog, children often learn by putting anything and everything in their mouths! These items mainly create airway or gastrointestinal obstruction hazards. Some examples include toy parts, coins, and batteries. The growing number of child battery ingestions has sparked a new safety initiative lead by Safe Kids USA and Energizer.
- Vitamins: Chewable and gummy vitamin products are very attractive to small children because of their bright-colored cartoon shape and “tooty fruity” flavors. A one-time ingestion of such products is unlikely to cause serious complications. Although, adult vitamin products with high iron content pose a serious toxicity hazard to small children.
- Cold and Cough Preparations: Literally hundreds of single and multi-symptom cough/cold products line pharmacy shelves. We rely on pharmacies to have products to self treat our coughs and sniffles. For this category, we offer parents a word of advice: Have the product handy should you need to call us. We will be able to provide better treatment recommendations, if we can quickly identify the active ingredients.
- Topical Preparations: Topical medications are applied externally in regions from head to toe and are mostly purchased in the over-the-counter aisles of your local drug store. The most (not to say other common ingredients in this group can’t be toxic) hazardous substances in this category are methyl salicylates, which pose an aspirin poisoning effect, and camphor containing products, which can cause seizures.
- Antihistamines: Products such as loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine are the least dangerous if accidently ingested by children; but parents be cautioned: other potent products in this category, like diphenhydramine, can cause agitation, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, coma and seizures in overdose.
- Pesticides: Pesticides are a broad category of chemicals that kill insects, weeds, rodents, algae, fungus, etc. They can be toxic whether ingested, skin contact, and/or inhaled (dusts/vapors).
- Plants: If possible, identify plants around the home by common name and botanical name. Many calls to the poison center start with “My kid ate a plant…and all I can tell you is it’s green and leafy with red berries.” To quickly determine toxicity, we need to specifically distinguish the plant. Please stay tuned for our upcoming blog about kids eating plants and some of nature’s other little gifts (i.e bugs, grass, mushrooms,etc.)!
Regardless of what a child eats or even tastes, remember the old adage “when in doubt, check it out”, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222. We are here to help.
Don’t forget to check out the “My Child Ate…” resource center which gives toxicity level and treatment information for the most common substances/products ingested by children.
By: Anna Hufendick, Pharm.D candidate and Tony Burda, IPC Call Center specialist
Here’s the complete series: