A scary moment that far too many parents know: seeing their child on the verge of swallowing something poisonous or, even more frightening, right after the child has already done so. Today’s post looks at the emergency care steps to take in an ingested poisoning incident.
By far, poisoning most often occurs by ingestion. Children under six years old account for over half of all poisonings. Most poisoning deaths in children are accidental, while most poisoning deaths in adults are intentional. Common ingested poisons include pain medications, personal care products, and household cleaning products.
Safety latches on drawers or cabinets, and child-resistant caps on bottles, are helpful in keeping poisons out of the hands of children. However, they are not “childproof” and do not substitute for careful and constant supervision.
The effects of ingested poisons are wide-ranging and often resemble those of common illnesses. Abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, and vomiting may occur. A child may also have an altered mental status. Upon questioning, the ingestion may be described by the child. Open and empty containers, unusual smells, and odd staining on clothes, skin, or lips may be present.
If it is suspected that a child has ingested something poisonous, act quickly. Activate EMS if the child is displaying any serious signs or symptoms.
In the United States, the National Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 automatically transfers the call to a regional poison control center. Poison centers can quickly provide information regarding the immediate treatment of any substance.
Help EMS providers and the poison center by clearly identifying the substance and providing details about the incident. Save any vomit, bottles, or containers for EMS.
Do not induce vomiting, or give water, milk, or activated charcoal to the child unless advised to do so by the poison control center or EMS.
Keep the child still. Calm, comfort, and reassure. Reassess the child regularly until another provider or EMS personnel take over
Need to take an emergency care class? Find an ASHI or MEDIC First Aid Training Center near you!