In 2002 there were 2.4 million toxic ingestions, and more than half of these occurred in children younger than 6, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Children aged 18-36 months seemed to be at the highest risk, and for these toddlers, just one pill can be deadly.
Be aware of these 7 common medications that can lead to emergencies when accidentally ingested by kids:
- Heart Pills: Calcium channel blockers (Brand names include: Cardizem, Cartia, Norvasc). These pills are intended to be used by adults with high blood pressure, angina and atrial fibrillation. If ingested by a child, symptoms include: dangerously low blood pressure and heart rate and seizures. Symptoms usually show up 1-5 hours after ingested, but the symptoms may be delayed by up to 14 hours.
- Muscle Rubs: Camphor-containing rubs (Brand names include: Vicks VapoRub, Ben-Gay, Tiger Balm, Save the Baby). These pills are intended to relieve muscle aches, itching, coughing, and fever blisters. If ingested by a child, symptoms include: rapid development of seizures, delirium, coma, and death. These symptoms occur within 10-20 minutes, and often children can go into seizures without any warning. Children may become hyperactive and restless. The skin around their lips may turn blue and in worst cases, these symptoms can progress to seizures and eventually to coma and respiratory depression.
- Prescription Pain Medications: Narcotic pain medications (Brand names include: Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin and others). These medications are intended to alleviate pain in adults. If ingested by a child, symptoms include: sleepiness, which proceeds to lethargy. They can eventually stop breathing, which leads to death. Infants and children may be more suseptible to these mediations’ effects than adults. Opiates and other pain meds, including acetaminophen, were the number one cause of medication-induced fatality from accidental ingestion in children 6 and younger in 2004.
- Aspirin and Oil of Wintergreen: Salicylates. (Brand names include: Bayer, Ecotrin and others). These medications are intended to alleviate muscle pain, prevent heart attacks and Oil of Wintergreen is used for flavoring. If ingested by a child, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, agitation, seizures, lethargy, coma and death. Oil of Wintergreen is particularly dangerous because its pleasant smell tempts toddlers, but one teaspoon is equivalent of nearly 90 baby aspirins!
- Depression Drugs: Antidepressants (Brand names include: Elavil, Tofranil, Wellbutrin and Zyban). These medications are intended to treat depression, chronic pain and migraines and smoking cessation in adults. If ingested by a child, symptoms include seizures, unresponsiveness and heart arrhythmias. After pain meds, antidepressants are the second highest cause of accidental death from poisoning in children younger than 6.
- Topical Blood Pressure Patches, Eye Drops, and Nasal Sprays: (Bran names include: Afrin, Clear Eyes and Clonidine patch). The use of these medications are intended to relieve redness/itchiness, nasal congestion and glaucoma. If ingested by a child, symptoms include lethargy, low blood pressure and coma. These medications, which are designed to be absorbed over time through the skin, can lead to serious consequences when ingested by a toddler. Children are known to drink these sprays and eye drops. Symptoms may be delayed for 4 hours, but as little as 6ml can lead to lethargy or coma.
- Diabetes Drugs: (Brand names include: Glyburide, Glipizide). These drugs are intended to manage diabetes in adults. If ingested by a child, symptoms include: dangerously low blood sugar, coma and seizures. Children may not display signs of this until 1-6 hours later, but symptoms may last up to 24 hours, so these children are often hospitalized for observation.
If you believe your child has ingested medication not intended for them, call 911 immediately, experts say, or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
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