Poisoning is one of the most common emergencies in children. If you think your child has had something poisonous, the faster you treat it, the better. The longer it stays in your child’s stomach, the more of it will find its way into his blood stream.

Your child’s symptoms will depend on the kind of poison he has swallowed. You may notice any of these signs.

  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Symptoms of shock – pale, cold sweaty skin, blue or grayish tinge inside the lips or under the fingernails, rapid and shallow breathing, restlessness, drowsiness or confusion, unconsciousness
  • Convulsions
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Burns or discoloration around the mouth if your child has swallowed a corrosive poison
  • Poison or empty container lying nearby

But treatment will be frightening for the child. It will make him violently sick and/ or passing a tube into his stomach to remove the contents. He will probably have to be kept under observation to see check for the effects of the poison on him. So, be sure that your child has indeed swallowed something before taking him to the hospital.

If your child has swallowed any pills, medicines, tobacco, alcohol or berries, clear his mouth of any bits he has not swallowed. Put him face down across your knee with his head lower than his hips, then put two fingers right to the back of his throat and wiggle them until he vomits. If he retches but nothing comes up, make him drink a big glass of water or milk and then try again.

Do not give first aid for more than three minutes. Try to take him to the hospital as soon as possible. Do not let him lie down on his back, if he seems drowsy. This will make him even more sick. He might breathe his vomit and choke.

If the poison is any form of household cleaner, garden spray, paint solvent, petrol or paraffin, vomiting it will burn his throat more and he might breathe it in. In such a case, wait for the doctor to pump it out. You could try to dilute the poison in order to reduce the damage it could do to his stomach. Give him milk as big a drink of milk as he can take. Do not force him to have it or he may vomit. Swill his mouth out and sponge his face to get rid of any chemical that could damage his skin. Rush him to the hospital. Take the poison with you.

Safety Tips

Children between one and five will try out anything that they happen to “discover”. Buy a medicine cabinet with a safety lock and remember to always keep it locked. Keep all pills and medicines, even “harmless” ones like his own vitamins in the cabinet and always remember to keep it back after use. Vitamins, which are actually good for him, could prove to be harmful if taken in large doses.

Do not carry medicines in your purse unless it is absolutely necessary. Always use a childproof container.

Do not let the child play with empty medicine containers. It only increases the chances of a mistake occurring and of him learning to open that “safe” lid.

Be extra careful in other people’s houses, especially those where there are no children. Grandparents houses invariably have sleeping pills by the bed, “heart pills” in the pocket and laxatives near the washbasin.

Be careful when you are travelling. You would invariably be carrying medicines, soaps and a lot of knick knacks. Keep them under lock and key.

Do not ever give medicines in the dark. Always check the label before giving him the medicine. Rewrite any label that has got smudged so that you know for sure what is in the bottle.

Cleaning, gardening and beauty are so varied that you will never know what is poisonous and what is not. Play safe and assume that everything is.

Keep all cleaning materials far away from the child’s reach. Remember that even if he does not drink the bleach or refrigerator cleaner, he could spray it in his eyes and blind himself.

Do not ever leave the cupboard with insect and weedkiller, paint stripper, paraffin etc. open even for a minute. Keep potentially dangerous beauty products such as hair remover in the medicine cabinet.

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