Poison Control Center
Omaha and Council Bluffs Vicinity
Nebraska and Iowa Toll
During the last forty-five years
much progress has been recorded as a result of a nationwide effort to decrease
the incidence and fatalities associated with accidental poisoning in the United
States. Our nation’s first poison control center opened in Chicago in 1953,
after a study of accidental deaths in childhood determined that a large
percentage were the result of accidental poisoning. Since those initial efforts,
the overall death rates associated with accidental poisonings have been
significantly lowered largely because of a combination of public education
efforts, the mandated use of child-resistant safety caps, the widespread
availability of poison control centers and advances in medical care.
In spite of all the recent
advances, the number of ingestions and or exposures to household medications and
chemicals continues to climb. The American Association of Poison Control Centers
reports that in 1994 over one million children under the age of 5 were
potentially exposed to poisonous substances. In that same year there were 26
children under the age of 5 who died because they accidentally swallowed
medications and household substances.
Protecting children from the
toxic exposure of drugs, chemicals, and other potential household hazards is an
important role for parents. Poison prevention begins by educating parents,
grandparents, and others who are entrusted with the care of our children about
what types of substances can be harmful to children. We must learn to think from
a child’s perspective and viewpoint when considering how the home environment
may pose potential risks that could lead to an episode of accidental poisoning.
Lastly, adults must know where and how to get help for poisonings when needed.
Tips for poison-proofing the
The kitchen, bathroom and garage
or storage areas are the most common sites of accidental poisoning in the home.
Consider the following when evaluating your home for potential accidental
Are all potentially harmful
products out of the reach of children or stored in a locked cabinet?
Many kitchens contain at least a few of
the following household cleaning products: ammonia, disinfectants, soaps,
bleaches, detergents, furniture polish, oven and drain cleaners, rust removers
and toilet bowl cleaners. All of these products contain chemicals that if
ingested can harm a child. The only true way to prevent accidental poisoning is
to be certain that the items are totally inaccessible to small children.
Childproof locks can be placed on cabinet door or these items can be stored on
shelves that are out of reach for small children. Remember that small children
still require constant adult supervision. Never underestimate the ability of
children to get into areas and containers that appear
Are all potentially harmful
products stored in their original containers?
Labels on the original container
give important information in the event of accidental ingestion so they should
always remain in place. Also, when containers are stored in soda bottles and
cups they can more easily be mistaken for food and drink and therefore be
Are all of the medications and
other potentially harmful substances in your home equipped with child-resistant
caps? Are medicines kept in their original containers? Is your medicine cabinet
accessible to small children?
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission estimates that child-resistant packaging for aspirin and oral
prescription medication has saved the lives of about 800 children since the
requirements were put into effect in the early 1970s. In order for
child-resistant packaging to be effective we must remember to resecure the lids
to all medications and potentially harmful substances after using them. It may
take a few extra minutes to tightly secure the lids on medications, but the time
is well spent if it eliminates the potential for accidental poisoning in the
home. Even if there are no small children living in your home it is advisable to
use products with child-resistant packaging. A significant number of accidental
poisonings occur when children are visiting grandparents and they come across
medications stored on tables and in nightstand drawers. Likewise, older adults
often take their medications into the homes where small children are residing
and these medications may become easily accessible if a child finds them in a
purse or suitcase.
inventory of your medicine cabinet several times each year. Discard old and
expired medications and substances.
minerals can be dangerous to small children, although we often think of vitamins
as non-toxic substances. Iron is especially harmful to small children. Between
June 1992 and January 1993, five toddlers died after eating iron supplements
according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report of Feb. 19, 1993. Iron is available without a
prescription and it is often found in children’s, prenatal, and adult vitamins.
The amount of iron contained in children’s and adult vitamins can be enough to
kill a child when taken in excessive amounts. In 1997 the FDA implemented new
rules that require unit-dose packaging for iron-containing products with 30
milligrams or more of iron per dosage unit. For a small child, as little as 600
milligrams of iron can be fatal.
Are you aware of the number of
things stored in the garage or storage area of the home that can be poisonous
have died after swallowing such everyday substances as charcoal lighter fluid,
paint thinner and remover, antifreeze, turpentine, and pesticides. All of these
products must be stored out of the reach of small children. Special shelves and
cabinets can be installed to make these items inaccessible. If you keep these
items in a garden shed be sure that childproof latches are in place to keep
curious children from gaining entrance into them.
never to place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.
Teach children that pesticides are poisons- something they should not touch. Mr.
Yuk stickers can be obtained from your local poison control center for placement
on dangerous substances.
What to do if a poisoning occurs
In case of accidental poisoning, try
your best to remain calm. Obtaining a complete and reliable history is the first
step in evaluating the potential problems. Keep the number of your local poison
control center by the phone. If you are unable to locate this number, call your
local emergency number (911 in most areas) or the operator and they will get you
the Poison Control Center.
to provide the following information when you reach a member of the Poison
- The child’s age and
- Important medical
information about the child, for example any existing health problems or
- The substance involved, was
it ingested (swallowed), inhaled, splashed into the eyes, or absorbed through
- How much of the potential
poison was involved? When unsure of the exact amount, err on the side of
over-estimating. For example, if you are unsure how many pills remained in the
bottle assume that the child ingested the full number that were prescribed.
- Any treatment that has
already been given
- Is the child awake,
lethargic, or drowsy and are they exhibiting any other symptoms?
- Your exact location and how
far you are from the nearest hospital
- Save all original
containers or bottles as they contain a list of ingredients included in the
medication or product in question.
information about the episode has been obtained the poison control center will
advise you of one of three general approaches to treatment. First, reassurance
that the exposure is not serious and needs no specified treatment, second, if
the exposure is potentially harmful, first aid advice, like instructions to
administer syrup of ipecac or fluids will be given, along with instructions to
have the child medically evaluated or third, if the exposure is dangerous, the
child will need immediate medical evaluation at the nearest hospital.
You may be
instructed by the poison control center to institute the following first aid
Get the child to fresh air immediately.
Open doors and windows. If the child is not breathing, you will be instructed to
begin artificial respiration.
Poisons on the
Remove all clothing that is
contaminated and begin to flood the skin with water for ten full minutes. Wash
gently with soap and water and rinse the skin well.
Poisons in the eye
Flood the eye with lukewarm water
poured from a large glass or pitcher held about two to three inches from the
eye. Continue to do this for 15 minutes and ask the child to blink as much as
possible to assist in irrigating the eye. Do not attempt to force the eyelids
Ingested or swallowed
If a child has ingested a
medication or potentially poisonous substance Do Not Give Anything By Mouth
Until You Have Been Instructed To Do So. Some substances
when ingested result in irritation and burning to the mouth, throat, and
digestive tract. By forcing a child who has ingested a corrosive substance to
vomit you can cause further damage. The poison control center will instruct you
on how to treat a child who has swallowed a potentially harmful
recommended that all families have a one-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac
available for each child residing in the home. It can be purchased without a
prescription at most pharmacies for about $2.00. Syrup of ipecac is a medication
that causes vomiting. It may be recommended by the poison control center to
remove a harmful substance from a child’s body before it has a chance to act.
Time is of the essence in treating accidental ingestions, as syrup of ipecac
will only be effective when given within the first ½ hour or so following
ingestion. For this reason, syrup of ipecac should be readily available in the
administer syrup of ipecac:
- Syrup of ipecac should not
be given to children under one year of age.
- Syrup of ipecac should not
be given to a child who is drowsy or who has taken a substance that causes
- Syrup of ipecac is not
given when the ingested poison may cause burns to the tissues it comes in
- You will be instructed on
how much syrup of ipecac to administer based on the child’s weight.
- Following administration of
the medicine, the child must consume at least 4 to 8 ounces of liquid (water,
juice, or soda may be given, avoid giving milk). Do not allow the child to eat
- About 20 minutes after
administering the medication and giving fluids the child should begin to
vomit. The child will probably become scared as they will not be feeling ill
but will suddenly begin retching. Have a container or bucket ready so that you
are prepared before the vomiting occurs.
- Once the child begins to
vomit look for pill fragments or other evidence of the poison.
- At times, if the child does
not vomit, a second dose of syrup of ipecac will be prescribed. The poison
control center will remain in contact with you once they initiate treatment
- Once the child has stopped
vomiting, wait at least two hours before giving anything else to drink. You
can slowly begin to offer solid food if the child tolerates the liquids
What to expect if you are
instructed to go to the hospital emergency department for
If the poison control center
determines that immediate medical intervention is needed you will be instructed
to take the child to the closest hospital. When you arrive at the emergency
department be sure tell the hospital staff that the child has ingested a
poisonous substance. Medical treatment must begin as soon as possible as delays
in treatment lead to increased absorption of the poisons.
efforts in the emergency department are aimed at removing or inactivating the
poison and supporting the body systems that may be adversely affected by the
substance. An intravenous catheter may be inserted into the child’s vein so that
fluids or other medications can be given. At times a tube will be placed down
the child’s mouth and into the stomach so that the stomach contents can be
evacuated quickly. Other medications may be administered that will bind to the
toxic substance and help to quickly eliminate them from the body. This may
result in your child experiencing black liquid stools for a few hours. Blood
samples may be needed to measure the exact levels of drugs or toxic substances
in the blood. Depending on the child’s condition, admission into the hospital
may be needed so that continued observation of the child can occur.
Preventing accidental poisoning
Childhood poisoning is a preventable injury. Efforts aimed
at preventing accidental poisoning have to take into consideration the
developmental age of the child. Children ages 1 to 3 years of age are at highest
risk for accidental poisoning because they may put anything into their mouths.
Children at this age are just beginning to become mobile and many things in the
home are now accessible to them. Child proofing measures in the home are best
initiated when the child is about 6 months of age, or before the child becomes
the 3 to 5 age group will frequently eat any pills that they discover. These
children are normally curious youngsters and they also like to mimic adult
get closer to adolescence, poison prevention efforts need shift from protection
to education. Family discussions about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs
should begin in the home. Remember that adult behavior serves as an example to
adolescents who are beginning to assert their independence and start making more
decisions on their own.
Here are some
general guidelines for safety regarding accidental poisoning.
Never refer to medicine as
Do not leave alcohol within
a child’s reach
Read labels explicitly
before administering medications (especially in the middle of the night).
Always replace the safety
caps as soon as you pour any medicine or use a household substance that can
Keep the telephone number
of your local poison control center by the phone.
Teach children never to eat
or drink anything that is offered to them by a stranger.
Keep a bottle of syrup of
ipecac in the home but only give it after first consulting with your doctor or
the poison control center.
Never place non-edible
products in food containers.
Before applying pesticides
remove children and their toys as well as pets from the area and keep them
away until the pesticide has dried or as long as is recommended on the label.
Be alert for repeat poisonings. Statistics show that children who swallow a
poison are likely to attempt it again within a year.
American Academy of Pediatrics.Publication: Protect your
child. Prevent Poisoning. C
Hingley, Audrey. Preventing Childhood Poisoning Feb 1, 1996.
Publication of the Food and Drug Administration 97-1233.
US Food and
Drug Administration. Important information about giving non-prescription
medicine to your children.