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Childhood Poisoning

Over 86,000 child poisonings were treated in the United States in hospital emergency rooms in 2004. About 70% of these poisonings were in children 1-2 years of age. About 60% of the poisonings involved oral prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, or supplements. Cleaning products, cosmetics, plants, toys, pesticides, art supplies, and alcohol contributed to most of the other poisonings. Another source of poisons for all individuals, but especially children, is illegal controlled substances. Children are being exposed to heroin, cocaine, and a variety of painkillers including oxycodone. In states where marijuana is legal, it may be incorporated in food as well as smoked, and this could be a serious problem for young children who acquire it, especially within the home.

About 55% of the poisonings came from products that were in child-resistant packages under the Poison Prevention Packaging Act. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 1.2 million cases of childhood poisoning in 2001 in children less than 6 years of age. In 2011, the 57 poison control centers in the United States handled 4 million calls including 2.4 million human poison calls.

Best Practices for Childhood Poisoning (See endnote 53)

  • • Post the poison control number by the main telephone in the home, or on the refrigerator.
  • • Store all medicines, household products, and personal care products in cabinets with locks.
  • • Make sure that none of the plants in the yard are poisonous if ingested or by contact or inhalation.
  • • Determine if visitors bring medicine into the house.
  • • Use carbon monoxide monitors near the bedrooms.
  • • Check all heating appliances to make sure they function properly.
  • • Determine if there is any lead-based paint in the house.
  • • Read directions before using any chemicals and use them judiciously.
  • • Take medicines appropriately in proper dosages.
  • • Do not mix household cleaners or other chemicals.
  • • Do not burn fuel, charcoal, or use gasoline-powered engines in confined spaces.

If poisoning occurs immediately contact the Poison Control Center and 911.

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