(note from Tony: This week is Poison Prevention Week. Did you know that poison is the #2 non-injury killer of kids aged 18 months to 3 years old? More than half of the 100,000 calls that the Illinois Poison Center receives each year is from a parent or caretaker of a young child. That's why for this week, Savvy Daddy is donating $1 for every new facebook fan (in Illinois) of the Illinois Poison Center. Join here and please help spread the word! For every $1 we invest in Poison Control, we save our state $12 in unnecessary health care costs) by Dr. Michael Wahl, Medical Director, Illinois Poison Center (and fellow dad!) The air is a little less cold, the sun is out a little bit longer and plans are being made for the spring clean up as we all look forward to warmer weather. As parents, this is a great time of year. Neighborhood kids who have been in a 4 month hibernation come over to play and we marvel at how big they have all gotten over the winter. We are all very happy the kids get to play outside again instead of inside. As an ER doc and Director of the Illinois Poison Center, I have to point out however that spring and summer are the times when pediatric unintentional poisoning peaks. In Illinois, there are over 20% more pediatric poisoning events in the spring and summer then there are in the winter. And a lot of that is due to access to harmful chemicals, access that for a lot of families, Dads control. In my house, grilling, topping off the cars and taking care of the yard and related equipment tends to roll my way. I like grilling, the rest just comes with the territory; and part of that territory is the responsibility to make sure the kids are safe. Some of the products in the garage that are potentially harmful include: 1) Hydrocarbons: examples are charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, turpentine and paint thinner, tiki torch oil and other similar products. Hydrocarbons if aspirated (breathed into the lungs) can cause severe lung damage and death. It only takes a small amount for tragedy to strike if one is not hyper-vigilant with small children. This class of chemical is seen almost every year as a cause of pediatric death in the poison control data. 2) Toxic Alcohols: Ethyl Alcohol, which is found in beer, wine and spirits is usually not found in the garage, however other types of alcohols are, and they include:
- Methanol: Commonly found in windshield washer fluid and gasoline additives. As little as a couple of teaspoons can cause blindness and death in a small toddler.
- Ethylene Glycol: Found in radiator antifreeze and has a slightly sweet, pleasant taste and can lead to kidney failure and even death if enough is drunk by the child.
- Diethylene Glycols and other higher glycols: Often found in brake fluid in very high concentrations. These products can also lead to renal failure and rarely death in large ingestions.