If your child has swallowed a poison or other life-threatening substance, don't induce vomiting. Call poison control immediately. It's natural to panic, but remember that staying calm can help you help your child.
An Old-Fashioned Remedy
It was previously believed that you should induce vomiting with ipecac, an emetic made from a Brazilian plant that stimulates vomiting by irritating the stomach lining as well as the vomiting center of the brain. Experts used to recommend that parents keep a 1-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac in their home in case of such a situation. In 2003 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed this recommendation because research has shown that ipecac-induced vomiting has not been shown to be beneficial in accidental poisoning cases. In fact, it may interfere with the effectiveness of charcoal given in the emergency room. (Charcoal binds to an ingested substance and keeps it from getting into the blood stream.) Induced vomiting doesn't remove all of the toxin, leaving behind 40 to 50%.
Ipecac may cause a child to vomit too much, leading to dehydration and starting a whole new set of problems. There are also some substances which can be more harmful when they come back up than they were going down, such as a corrosive poison, which can burn the throat and mouth coming up as badly as it did going down. Therefore, it is vital that a qualified individual determines the best way to deal with accidental ingestion of a dangerous material. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents discard any ipecac in their home, unless they are required to have it by state law (which may be because they are foster parents or run a home daycare).
What You Should Do
If your child swallows something that is potentially poisonous, dial poison control immediately. Poison control can be reached at (800) 222-1222. The operator will walk you through the appropriate actions to take, depending on what your child has ingested, how much of the material and her age. If your child is having convulsions, stops breathing or becomes unconscious, call 911 immediately.
How to Protect Children from Poisoning
The best way to keep your child from an accidental ingestion of a dangerous substance is prevention. Keep hazardous materials, such as cleaning products, insecticides, medications and other potentially poisonous products locked and out of your child's reach. After using a hazardous material or taking a medication, replace the child-resistant cap. Keep all products in their original containers to avoid confusion and properly discard of old medications. Never call medicine "candy," as that can cause confusion and make medicine seem enticing to children.
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