Home Emergency Treatments - Poisons

10th May, 2017
Leilah Wesley

The home can be a hazardous place for children, with plenty of potential pitfalls for injury. Preventing these is definitely best, but when mishaps do happen, being able to treat them efficiently and effectively speeds up healing. In this new series of articles on ‘Emergency treatments at home’we’ll help you to get a handle on some of the common accidents and how to treat them at home.

A broad category of poisonous chemicals, called Hydrocarbons, is found in some form in virtually every home – inside and outside. Hydrocarbons are in petrol, lamp oil, furniture polish, paint thinner and can be in bath oil, sunscreen and make up removers. Hydrocarbons are a leading cause of death by poisoning in children. Importantly, many products containing these dangerous hydrocarbons do not have childproof packaging.

Poisons found inside the home

Cleaning products may often smell nice, but can be poisonous if they get on the skin, into the eyes or are inhaled or swallowed. Drain and toilet cleaners, mildew and rust removers, bleach, carpet cleaners and oven cleanerscan cause chemical burns on the skin which must be rinsed immediately. If ingested, immediately give the victim water to drink to dilute the chemical action and seek help..

Pesticidesare common household items, but their fumes can affect breathing and the nervous system and they can also be absorbed through the skin. Also keep the tiny cell or button batteries well out of the reach of children, to prevent children swallowing them and sustaining internal burns from the battery leaking once swallowed.

Alcoholis extremely dangerous for children, and it’s not just the alcohol in the drinks cabinet. Facial cleansers, perfumes, aftershave, colognes, mouthwash and hair tonicsmay contain alcohol too. Very little alcohol can have a serious negative effect on small children. It could cause seizures, coma or even death.

Certain gluesand nail glue removers used for artificial nails can be poisonous too. They could cause burns to the skin or mouth if consumed by children.

Medicationsare a common cause of poisoning in the home, and this also goes for over-the-counter vitamin and herbal medications. All medications, pills, powders, dietary supplements, prescription and herbal medications should be kept in inaccessible cupboards and in tamper proof bottles if possible. Iron pills are extremely dangerous for children, and can cause diarrhoea or make them vomit blood, topical anaesthetics can cause seizures in children and haemorrhoid preparations can also harm children.

Outdoor poisons

Plant poisonscan have an effect if they make contact with the skin or if they are ingested. Poisonous mushroomsthat literally pop up in the garden overnight are particularly problematic and can be deadly if eaten. Try to plant non-toxic plants in your garden and ensure that  fertilizers, snail bait, pesticides and weed killersare kept behind lock and key.

Hazards in the garage

Petrol, diesel, anti-freeze, brake fluid, motor oil, windscreen wiper fluid, paints, strippers and chemical cleanersall lurk in garages and are potentially fatal if swallowed. Windscreen wash can cause blindness if it’s splashed in eyes and it can be fatal if swallowed. If anti-freeze is swallowed it can cause kidney failure and even death in a child.

If the child is unconscious, having trouble breathing or convulsing, call for medical help immediately or get the child to the nearest emergency room.

If poison has been:

•          swallowed and the child is conscious, give them water to drink.

•          inhaled, get the child into fresh air.

•          in contact with skin, remove any contaminated clothing and rinse the affected area with warm water

           for 15–20 minutes.

•          in contact with the eyes, rinse with lukewarm water for 15–20 minutes.

Contact the closest poison centre immediately for advice – Poison Information 021 931 6129. Keep the numbers close at hand or on the fridge, in the event of an emergency.