Poison Prevention: Children Act Fast (cont.)
Moderator: Dr. Geller, can you please discuss the role of vitamins, particularly iron tablets, in child poisonings?
Dr. Geller: Yes. Iron is a commonly used substance, both for people who need iron supplementations to maintain their blood counts and pregnant women. For approximately the last ten years, leading cause of death in children under six from overdose on prescription drugs is iron prescribed for the pregnant mother Unfortunately, that product sometimes used to be dispensed in containers that were not child safe. Fortunately, new rules adopted by the US Consumer Products Safety Commission in recent years now require the use of child resistant packaging for iron tablets. And we hope to see decline in the occurrence of injury or death from iron in young children.
Moderator: What happens when a child gets an overdose of iron?
Dr. Geller: A little bit of iron is good for your body. A lot of iron overwhelms the ability of the body to handle it properly and when that happens, the iron that can't be handled properly interferes with the proper function of cells throughout the body. Ultimately, if this is very severe, the patient can go into shock, just as if they had lost a lot of blood from a wound and the failure to maintain blood pressure can be fatal. Also, various organs within the body may be poisoned, so that even if the patient maintains their blood pressure, serious injury may still occur.
Moderator: Dr. Geller, what kind of first aid can I give when I suspect poisoning?
Dr. Geller: The first thing that I would recommend would be to assess the status of the patient. As in other medical emergencies, what we teach is first check your ABCs, and those stand for A for airway, B for breathing, and C for circulation. If any of those three is seriously abnormal, then we need to call 911 and initiate CPR. If those are normal, the next step we would recommend would be calling the poison center. We do not generally recommend initiating any efforts at emptying the stomach without specific advice to do so from the poison center or a physician.
Moderator: What is syrup of ipecac and why should it be kept on hand?
Dr. Geller: Syrup of ipecac is a product which can be bought without prescription, and which is effective in people in causing vomiting within 20 to 30 minutes after it is taken. Having it on hand in the household permits it to be used if a physician or poison center recommends doing so. However, there are many situations in which emptying the stomach might make things worse instead of better. And so we don't recommend doing that without specific advice.
Moderator: Dr. Geller, I also heard that activated charcoal can be used for first aid in case of poisoning. Can you please comment?
Dr. Geller: Activated charcoal intended for medicinal use is very effective when used in the appropriate circumstance in binding up some poisons. However, it has the texture of sand and the taste of sand, and most efforts at getting young children to take it are met with failure unless you have experience in getting such things down kids. Therefore, we are not strong advocates here in Georgia of having activated charcoal in the home. Some of our colleagues in other institutions, disagree with us on this issue, however. And I respect their ability to get people to get this stuff into young kids. But we have not had great success in this area.
Moderator: Paige, what kind of activities is the Georgia Poison Center involved with for National Poison Prevention Week?
Cucchi: Well, actually, we hosted the first annual statewide poison prevention week poster contest for residents of Georgia, and we worked with Wal-Mart pharmacy and Atlanta Parent Magazine to sponsor this poster contest for children ages 4 to 12. And we selected first, second and third place prize winners for three age groups and awarded those prizes at a Poison Prevention Week kickoff luncheon, held on Monday at Fernbank Natural History Museum. In addition, we honored our volunteers and members of our speakers bureau at this luncheon, as well. We also distribute statewide Poison Prevention Week planning kits which provide information and materials to help communities plan and organize activities to promote poison prevention and Poison Prevention Week. And then we coordinate programs for children and adults throughout the state by utilizing volunteers of our poison prevention instructors speakers bureau to go out on our behalf to teach poison safety programs. And finally, we conducted a media campaign, distributing TV and radio public service announcements throughout the state