By Kathy Hubbard
Those blue-colored sports drinks make me nervous. To me, they look like dish soap and when I see someone drinking one it makes me gag. It also makes me queasy to use those laundry or dishwasher soap tablets that look like candy. Why? Because a child could easily mistake one for the other and when ingested, of course, these products can be dangerous or even lethal.
When one thing looks like another, it’s important to make sure you know and your children know what in fact they are. And, always do your best to keep potential hazards out of the reach of little ones.
Put this number into your phone right now. It’s 1-800-222-1222. It’s the line into the National Capital Poison Center that you will call if you or someone you love has ingested; been splashed with, or inhaled something that you suspect may be poisonous even if it doesn’t result in an immediate reaction.
Watch out, Grandma’s pills may look like mints. Drugs to lower blood pressure or cholesterol, used for heart disease, or depression can be fatal to a child. Even vitamins meant for adults should be kept away from kids. These drugs can cause difficulty breathing, coma, bleeding, liver damage and all sorts of other serious, long-term complications.
Ex-Lax looks chocolatey and yummy, but any laxative can be hazardous for a child and in excess can be risky for adults as well. “Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea are most common,” states the National Institute of Health’s website. “Dehydration and electrolyte problems are more common in children than adults.”
That rum punch smells like fruit juice but be aware that alcohol can be a deadly poison for children. “This is true whether children drink beer, wine, mixed drinks, other alcoholic beverages, or mouthwash. Because of their small size and immature livers, children are subject to different effects from adults who overindulge. Children will become drowsy as their central nervous system is affected by alcohol. They can also develop low blood sugar, leading to seizures, coma, and death,” NCPC tells us and says that if a child swallows something with alcohol in it to call the poison center right away.
Don’t pick your own foods in the wild unless you know what you are doing. Those carrot and parsnip looking roots could be hemlock. “Poison hemlock and water hemlock are different plants but each can be fatal to people who eat them,” NCPC says.
They also warn about mushrooms: “Unless you are an expert, you cannot tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushrooms. Mushrooms called “death caps” (Amanita phalloides, Amanita verna) grow easily in yards and parks. Eating even a few bites can cause fatal liver damage. There are other types of poisonous mushrooms, too, which can fool you. Get your mushrooms from the market!”
The Mayo Clinic warns that poisoning signs and symptoms often mimic other conditions such as seizures or drunkenness, a stroke or insulin reaction. Look for burns or redness around the mouth and lips, breath that smells like chemicals, vomiting, difficulty breathing, drowsiness or confusion. All these symptoms can point towards poisoning.
“If you suspect poisoning, be alert for clues such as empty pill bottles or packages, scattered pills, and burns, stains and odors on the person or nearby objects. With a child, consider the possibility that he or she may have applied medicated patches or swallowed a button battery,” Mayo Clinic advises.
Don’t induce vomiting until after you’ve talked to the poison control center. And, don’t give syrup of ipecac as it can do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, Mayo Clinic suggests throwing it away if you have any.
Call 911 immediately if the person is drowsy or unconscious; having difficulty or has stopped breathing; is uncontrollably restless or agitated; is having seizures, or is known to have taken medications or any other substance intentionally.
Remember the old adage about an ounce of prevention. Be careful with products that may look like something else. And, please, don’t drink blue sports drinks around me!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.