A toxic substance is any chemical or mixture that may be harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through a child’s skin. Each day, 300 American children end up in the emergency room because they ate or drank something toxic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statistically, about two of those children will die as a result of the toxic ingestion.
At Children’s Medical Center, we’re committed to kids’ safety. We have Injury Prevention Specialists available to help teach parents about potentially dangerous substances in the home. If parents are able to keep those items away from their children, they’re able to keep their children out of the emergency room.
Children are naturally curious. Certain plants, wild mushrooms and berries can be enticing for kids to eat. Also, many common household products come in brightly colored packaging that a child may not be able to discern from candy or other treats. Toxic substances include
- Cleaning supplies such as laundry detergents, oven and toilet bowl cleaners and furniture polish
- Cosmetics, including nail polishes and perfumes
- Deodorant and soap
- Lead (commonly used in paints prior to 1978)
- Medications (account for 40 percent of poisonings in children aged 5 and under)
- Paints and paint thinner
- Plants (both household and outdoor, including poinsettias and tumbleweed)
- Wild berries (from certain plants such as black nightshade and pokeberry)
- Wild mushrooms
Symptoms of toxic ingestion
Symptoms of toxic ingestion depend on the type of substance and how much of it the child consumed. Some children may not have any initial symptoms, while others may have varying degrees of the following:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
If parents believe their child has ingested a toxic substance, they should call the nationwide Poison Control Center number at 800-222-1222 immediately. They should NOT wait for a child to look or act sick. Nurses, pharmacists and toxicologists are available to quickly answer parents’ questions and tell them what to do next.
Diagnosis for toxic ingestion begins with a physician asking the parents about any poisons the child may have come in contact with. Further diagnostics usually include a physical exam and screenings such as blood tests and urinalysis.
Treatment will depend on the type of toxin the child ingested. At Children's Medical Center, we follow a patient-centered model of treatment. By putting the patient first, we bring together all the hospital's resources to meet a child's needs. Critical care physicians work with nurses, respiratory care therapists and others to ensure the best and most innovative treatment is available for each child at a moment's notice.