The Hamilton Spectator
Protecting your kids from harmful toxins
Young children will put just about anything in their mouths. For the most part, what finds its way into their mouths is pretty benign — but that doesn’t mean parents can drop their guard in keeping kids safe from harmful substances.
We asked Katie Orr, a poison spe- cialist and outreach educator at the Ontario Poison Centre, which is op- erated and supported by the Hospi- tal for Sick Children, to provide some advice to parents.
What should you do if you suspect your child has swallowed a chem- ical or toxin?
If your child is unconscious or very drowsy, difficult to wake, having seizures, or has any difficulty breathing, call 911.
You can also look for burning or blistering in or around the mouth. If your child is verbal, they’ll likely complain of pain. But if your child is preverbal, signs to watch for in- clude refusing to drink, excess drooling, an inability to swallow or trying to spit out the liquids they’ve just consumed.
Never induce vomiting; it’s not very effective in eliminating poison and can cause more harm than good. This is because the esophagus can become injured by a chemical coming back up, plus you also risk fluid getting into the lungs.
If you believe your child has swallowed a hazardous product, we suggest calling the Ontario Poison Centre. More than 60 per cent of the cases treated by the poison centre are managed at home through guidance from the on-call staff.
How does a toddler typically ingest a poisonous substance?
These exposures happen mostly when the product is open and in
use. The lid might be off or loose. The parent may have poured the product into a smaller container or cup. In most cases, we’re not seeing kids glugging stuff down like a bottle of juice, but they tend to be much less discriminate when it comes to bad tastes and smells.
What are steps parents can take to prevent poisonings?
It mostly comes down to storage. Simply storing medicines and chemicals in a high cupboard isn’t enough. Kids are wilful; they’ll climb to get what they want. So,
while it’s good to keep chemicals out of reach, they should also be out of sight and locked up.
As convenient as it may be, don’t keep things like medicine bottles in a diaper bag or purse. Also, be sure to keep products in their original containers. When you keep materials in their original container, you’ve got all the relevant information, including chemical name, concentration, volume, warning symbols and first-aid information.
Finally, when we think of poison control, we typically think of younger children. But we’re seeing a
trend with social media challenges impacting teenagers. A couple of years ago there was a detergentpod challenge, where kids were eating laundry and dishwashing pods, and some of these cases ended up in the hospital.
HEALTHY KIDS POSES HEALTH QUESTIONS TO EXPERTS AT SICKKIDS. ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER WITH SPECIFIC CONCERNS. TORSTAR IS IN A FUNDRAISING AND EDUCATIONAL PARTNERSHIP WITH SICKKIDS FOUNDATION TO HELP RAISE $1.5 BILLION FOR NEW FACILITIES.