Household hazards can cause harm to children
Truckee resident Jonathan Rodriguez, 4, is back at home after spending nearly a week in the hospital after he ingested oven cleaner.
Jonathan was admitted to Tahoe Forest Hospital in early November after he ate the toxic substance. He was then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Washoe Medical Center where he was treated for burns to his mouth and esophagus.
Jonathan’s experience is one that many parents fear, but children ingesting harmful substances is a relatively uncommon occurrence locally, said Trish Harvey, emergency room nurse at Tahoe Forest Hospital.
“We see maybe one case a month,” Harvey said. “It tends to happen when grandparents are around because children get into pill boxes, and in the summer time because of mushrooms in people’s gardens.”
It might also be comforting to know that while ingesting toxic substances can sometimes be traumatic, it is very rarely lethal.
“We have not had a lethal pediatric exposure for years and years,” said Judith Alsop, managing director of the Sacramento Division of California Poison Control Systems, which handles poison control calls from Truckee and the North Shore. “Things can be dangerous, but that’s different from deadly.”
The most common child-related calls received by poison control are about the ingestion of liquid bleach, Alsop said, because nearly everyone has the product at home. When drunk, liquid bleach might cause vomiting, but the child will likely be just fine, Alsop said.
Parents should be more concerned about substances such as gasoline, furniture polish, lamp oil and others that contain petroleum distillates.
“Ingestion is not the main problem with these substances,” Alsop said. “The danger is if they cough when they swallow it and suck the substances into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia can be deadly for a child.”
There is also another group of substances that contain strong acids or corrosive agents, and includes items such as oven cleaners, toilet cleaners and pool cleaners, according to Alsop. These chemicals can be particularly dangerous because they burn.
But household cleaners are only half the problem, Alsop said. The other half is medicines.
“Children seem to really like Triaminic and Dimetapp ” they make those medications taste pretty good,” Alsop said. “Plus, those lids are not childproof, they are only child-resistant. They can slow children down but it’s sure not going to stop them.”
In large doses, poison control experts become concerned about increased heart rates, heightened blood pressure, and an increased risk for seizure.
It’s for these reasons that parents and caretakers should store household cleaners, paints, chemicals and medicines well above a child’s reach, Harvey said. But in the event that a child does ingest a toxic substance, calling poison control or going directly to a hospital emergency room should be the first move. In no event should a caretaker try to induce vomiting
“A finger down the throat can cut a child,” Alsop said. ” And if a substance can burn or be inhaled on the way down, it can burn or be inhaled again on the way up.”
A fundraiser is being held for 4-year-old Jonathan Rodriguez and his mother Ruth on Monday, Dec. 4 at Village Pizzeria in Truckee from 5 to 9 p.m. Jonathan ingested oven cleaner earlier this month and suffered burns to his mouth and esophagus. The family does not have medical insurance and needs assistance in paying for the seven days that Jonathan spent in the hospital. A bake sale will also be held that night and 100 percent of those proceeds will be donated to the family. If you would like to make a separate donation, an account has been set up at Bank of the West under Jonathan’s name.
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