In the event of chemical poisoning, have the container by your side when you call poison control so you can answer questions by reading the label. If the poisoning is from a plant and you don't know its name, take a piece with you to the phone so you can describe it, or to the emergency room so you can show it. Be ready to provide the following information:
The brand name and ingredients (for medicines and chemicals)
The species name (if you know it) — the shape, size, and color (if you don't) — for a plant the child ingested or the insect or animal (such as a snake) that bit him
An estimate of how much material was ingested
How much time has elapsed since the poisoning
The child's condition
Any medical problems or allergies the child has
In the event of a poisoning emergency:
Call 911 if your child has collapsed, is having convulsions, has stopped breathing, or you feel that the amount or kind of the ingested poison is going to require a trip to the emergency room.
Don't wait to see if accidentally ingested medication actually has an effect before calling poison control. It's better to be safe than sorry!
Keep a one-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac for inducing vomiting on hand for each child in the home, but DO NOT induce vomiting unless a medical professional says to do so. You can double the problem if the ingested poison is the kind that burns the throat.
Call a neighbor for help while waiting for an ambulance so you'll have a cooler head on hand, and someone to help with your other children.
Modern households are filled with substances that parents may never have thought of as being particularly dangerous … but that's because they never considered eating them!
One of the more dangerous substances for toddlers is lead, which has been linked with lower IQ, aggression, and antisocial behavior. Since lead is commonly used in paint, especially in older homes, parents should be especially careful about sweeping up chips and flakes from walls and window frames. Check your blinds, too; some newer models have lead-based paint. If you discover lead in your home, alert your pediatrician and see about having your child tested.
In 1998 alone, 17,000 children required treatment after drinking either rubbing alcohol or liquor.
Also in 1998, 980 children under age six were treated for injuries relating to glue.
When parents are childproofing the house, they should be careful that all of the following potentially hazardous substances are beyond children's reach:
Cigarettes and nicotine
Dishwasher detergents and rinses
Dyes for fabrics and foods (And unless that Easter egg dye says “nontoxic,” watch those eggs like a hawk!)
Fabric finishers and softeners
Floor cleaners and polishes
Indoor plant foods
Laundry detergents and additives
Matches and lighters
Paints (including watercolors)
Polishes and waxes
Room deodorizers and air fresheners
Toilet bowl cleaners
Typewriter correction fluid
Poisons via the Eye
If a child gets a dangerous substance in her eye, call 911 or poison control to see if there is a need for professional medical attention. Recommendations typically include the following:
Fill a pitcher with tepid (not hot!) water.
Keep the child from rubbing his eyes by wrapping him in a blanket, sheet, or towel that is large enough to keep his arms at his sides.
Do not force the eyelid open.
Pour the water into the eye from a distance of 2 to 3 inches.
Repeat for a full fifteen minutes.
Encourage the child to blink as much as possible.
It's one thing to put dye on your hair, quite another to put it in a stomach! Products whose safety you never thought to question should be kept well out of reach of little hands:
Creams, lotions, and makeup
Hair-coloring agents (dyes, bleaches, rinses)
Hairsprays, gels, and relaxers
Nail polishes and removers
Perfumes and aftershaves
Shampoos and conditioners
Suntan and sunscreen products
Toothpaste, mouthwashes, and rinses
An estimated 28,700 children drank perfume in 1998; almost 1,000 required treatment in a health care facility. Most had no ill effects; many had minor effects; and a few cases were moderate or severe. In that same year, 5,500 youngsters ingested powder, with or without talc; 20 percent experienced ill effects from it. Toddlers are fast — better to be safe than surprised!
With a toddler in the house, parents should give serious thought to sacrificing their plants. Besides the safety issue that arises if little ones actually eat some, they will most probably pull off the leaves, dump out the dirt, and rip them to shreds. Since it's a safe bet that at least a piece or two will end up in his mouth, which may mean he swallows some, it makes sense to resign yourself to doing without much indoor greenery for the foreseeable future. An amazing range of flowers and plants are toxic, including common ones like foxglove, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettia, oleander, and tulips. Check with a local nursery to be sure any greenery you keep in or around your house isn't toxic to toddlers.
Exposed roots, rough stones, and sharp sticks are a potential danger in their own right, but they are also perfect tools for digging, poking, and exploring the great outdoors. While a toddler is outside, she can also be exposed to a variety of nasty bugs. The following list will tell you what to look for, both during and after the encounter.
Fire ants. These very aggressive pests derive their name from the firelike pain of their stings. A white pustule appears after twenty-four to forty-eight hours at the site of the sting of some species. Pustules must be kept clean, as they readily become infected and can leave permanent scarring. Some toddlers are hypersensitive to the venom and can develop chest pains, nausea, dizziness, shock, or lapse into coma.
Bees, wasps, and hornets. Swelling can occur immediately but may not manifest for five to six hours. Either way, it can be dramatic, last for three to four days, and be accompanied by bruising and itching. Apply ice for five to fifteen minutes, but be careful not to freeze tender toddler skin. Swelling at the sting site doesn't signal an allergic reaction. A child who is allergic to a sting will begin reacting within a few minutes or hours. Allergy symptoms include flushing, anxiety, swelling in areas other than the site of the sting (especially around the mouth and eyelids), hives, difficulties breathing, dizziness, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and unconsciousness. In the event of an allergic reaction, call 911.
Spiders. The infamous black widows don't always inject poison. Poison control can tell you how to assess the wound and determine whether a trip to the ER is necessary. More problematic is the brown recluse spider; six out of ten species are poisonous. Their color ranges from tan to brown. Most species bear a violin-shaped marking on their bodies. Symptoms include fever, malaise, rash, vomiting, and diarrhea. Call poison control.
The following gases are hazardous: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, chlorine, methane, natural gas, and propane. In the event of an accident:
Avoid breathing the fumes yourself.
Get your toddler to fresh air fast.
Open doors or windows (if this can be done without spreading dangerous fumes).
Administer artificial respiration and chest compressions if the child isn't breathing and call 911.