EUREKA, ILL. -- In 2012, the Illinois Poison Center handled nearly 74,000 calls for advice on treating someone who was exposed to a potentially harmful substance. Nearly half of these calls involved children ages five and under.
The natural curiosity of children makes it imperative that adults make every effort to keep potentially hazardous substances out of little hands, according to Dr. Mark Mroczko, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group – Eureka.
“Lock up your medicines or keep them up high and safe, where children can’t reach them,” Dr. Mroczko says.
In their most recent data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 71,000 children under 18 were seen in emergency departments each year because of medication poisonings. Over 80 percent of these cases are the result of an unsupervised child finding and consuming medications.
According to the CDC, visits to the emergency department for children with accidental medication poisonings are twice as common as poisonings from other household products – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be just as cautious with them.
“Keep all detergents, dish soaps and other liquid chemicals up high as well,” says Dr. Mroczko. “Kids often mistake these types of chemicals, as their colors are quite attractive – light blue or light yellow or red. They want to swallow them because they look good.”
In fact, Dr. Mroczko says that’s often the same reason kids get into medications. “The pills look good or interesting, or look like candy,” he says.
If you suspect your child has accidentally ingested something poisonous, the most important thing is to assess whether they’re having problems breathing or remaining conscious, Dr. Mroczko says. For these issues, call 9-1-1.
“Otherwise, most poisonings can be managed at home,” he says. He recommends calling the Illinois Poison Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1.800.222.1222. The hotline is staffed by specially-trained medical experts who can answer questions and provide recommendations for treatment. The Center resolves 90 percent of poisoning cases over the phone.
Dr. Mroczko, who is the incoming medical staff president at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, talks about poison prevention in a video on Advocate Health Care’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/advocatehealthcare.
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