Accidental Poisoning

Accidental poisoning is a common concern in the pediatric population. Unfortunately, accidental poisoning is caused by ingesting many household items. Children swallow harmful substances even though they have a bad taste or smell. Poisoning occurs almost exclusively in kids under the age of six and most often by boys under the age of three. Accidental poisoning usually occurs when something commonly found in the home is out in plain sight, is ready to be used and is unattended. The number one ingested item is medication. Surprisingly, cleaning products are second to medication. Other common items include cosmetics, poisonous plants, batteries, gardening materials, alcohol, cigarettes, (if eaten) Illicit drugs, essential oils, pesticides, and glue.

There can be a wide range of symptoms associated with an ingestion from accidental poisoning. Common symptoms include tummy-ache, nausea or vomiting, unexpected sleepiness, and depending on the substance, complaints of mouth pain due to burns from a causative agent. Other symptoms can include seizures, respiratory or cardiac arrest as well as coma or death. Sometimes a child might just “act funny” after ingesting a poison.

If one suspects accidental ingestion or poisoning, immediately call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 whether or not the child is showing symptoms. It is very important to not induce vomiting as this can sometimes cause more harm. If directed to an emergency facility for further evaluation, make sure to take the ingested substance to that facility. In any life-threatening emergency call 911.
Treatments for accidental poisoning can vary widely depending on the substance involved. Specifically, the hospital might give the child something within an hour of the ingestion that helps absorb whatever was ingested. There are some antidotes available. Oftentimes the best treatment is supportive which can include observation and hospital admission.
Prevention is the key to avoiding accidental poisoning. Always remember to keep medicines and harmful substances put away and out of reach. Childproof containers and child resistant locks on drawers or cabinets are also helpful and should always be used. Last, it is important to store medicines or chemicals in their original containers so that there is no confusion as to what the substance actually is.