Lifesaving Steps continued...
If your situation is more dire -- if the child has swallowed
something extremely toxic and fast-acting -- you may need to administer first
aid right away. To speed up this process, Perrin recommends that one adult call
Poison Control, while another adult take the following precautions:
- If poison touches the skin, immediately wash the area with soap and warm
water for 10 to 30 minutes. If there is blistering, take the child to the
- If a toxic substance gets in the eyes, flush eyes with warm water for 10
- If poison is inhaled, take the child outside for fresh air.
- If breathing or heartbeat is absent, perform CPR and call 911
- If the child is unconscious or breathing is difficult or labored, call
Poison Control or your pediatrician may recommend calling 911
for transport of the child to an emergency room, depending on the urgency of
If only one adult is present and the child is in imminent
danger, first aid should be administered and 911 notified before calling Poison
Control. Always err on the side of assuming the situation is urgent, if you are
Know the Signs and Hazards
Of course, you can take action only if you are aware of the
signs of a poisoning, which can include difficulty breathing or speaking,
dizziness, unconsciousness, foaming or burning of the mouth, cramps, nausea,
The younger the child, the more likely that he or she will
ingest something dangerous. "Unintentional poisoning in children greatly
drops off after 5 years of age," says Soloway. "Before then, you really
can't leave your children alone in a room with available toxic agents or expect
them to leave something alone when you tell them to."
Prevention is, as the saying goes, the best remedy. Be sure to
keep the usual and the unusual suspects out of reach and out of sight.
According to Soloway, the most dangerous household items for children under age
5 include prescription and nonprescription medication (such as cold medicine,
aspirin, and antiseptic ointments), antifreeze, windshield cleaning solution,
caustic chemicals (oven cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner), hydrocarbons (furniture
polish, lamp oil, kerosene), pesticides, and alcohol.
Other less obvious substances should also be kept out of harm's
way, she says, including iron supplements, which are the leading cause of
pediatric poisoning death. Children have died of alcohol poisoning from
drinking mouthwash. And nicotine in any form is also hazardous; a single
cigarette can cause seizures within 30 minutes of being swallowed by a
All of these items should be kept locked up and in their
original, childproof packaging. "People don't always replace a childproof
cap securely, so it's easier for them to get it off the next time, which is
just asking for trouble," says Soloway.