What to do in the event of a suspected poisoning?

If you suspect that your child may have ingested a poison, call for emergency medical assistance immediately. In most communities, including Columbia and all of Boone County, dial 9-1-1. If your community does not have 9-1-1, call your local emergency number or the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Poison Control Center emergency toll free office at 1-800-366-8888.

In Missouri, the American Association of Poison Control Centers is operated by:

Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital
1465 South Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63104
314-772-5200 Non-emergency, general information

If you live in Columbia or Boone County, when you dial 9-1-1, a communications operator will dispatch the appropriate fire and ambulance units and then connect via three way calling, the Cardinal Glennon Poison Control Center. At that point, a poison control specialist will ask specific questions and guide you through specific actions or perhaps no action at all. Meanwhile, the 9-1-1 operator will be able to relay the instructions from the poison control center to the responding fire and ambulance units so that the best medical care can be administered upon their arrival.

Who is at risk?

Each year unintentional poisonings claim the lives of nearly 100 children, with children age 4 and under accounting for nearly half of the deaths. In 1999 more than 1.1 million unintentional poisonings among children ages 5 and under were reported to U.S. poison control centers. Male children are more likely than female children to suffer exposures to poisons and death from poison ingestion. African-American children are twice as likely to suffer unintentional poisoning than Caucasian children.

Types of Poisonings

Medicines and Household Product Poisoning
Each year more than 40 children die from unintentional exposure to household products and medicines. Among children ages 5 and under, over one-half of poison exposures are by non-pharmaceutical products such as cosmetics, cleaning substances, plants, pesticides, art supplies and alcohol. When medicine is ingested by children ages 4 and under, one-quarter of the medicines belong to someone who does not live in the household. Grandma’s purse, which may contain easy to open pill boxes, are an easy source for children to obtain medication. And, in an alarming statistic, only one-third of all care givers are able to measure the correct dosage of prescribed medications administered to a child.

Lead Poisoning
It is estimated that almost one million children between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated blood lead levels high enough to affect intelligence, growth and development. Children between the ages of 1 and 2 are at the greatest risk from lead poisoning. Ingesting dust from deteriorating lead-based paint is the most common cause of lead poisoning among children. Sadly, children are more likely to suffer elevated blood lead levels if they are low-income, receiving Medicaid, living in large metropolitan areas or living in older homes.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO Poisoning)
Each year, approximately 24 children ages 14 die from CO, a odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. In 1999, an estimated 3,400 children were treated in emergency rooms for exposure to CO. The majority of exposures to CO occur during the winter months and the most common cause of CO-related poisoning are unvented supplemental heaters (non-electric space heaters).

Poison Prevention Tips

  • Store all household products and medications locked out of sight and out of reach of children. Never leave potentially poisonous household products unattended while in use.
  • List the local poison control center and emergency medical service numbers near every telephone.
  • Keep a bottle of Ipecac syrup on hand to be used ONLY on the advice of a poison control center or doctor. Ipecac syrup induces vomiting and may cause more damage if used without the advice of a poison control center or doctor. you can obtain a bottle of Ipecac syrup at most stores and pharmacies.
  • Always read labels and follow directions listed on the bottle. If in doubt, contact your doctor or pharmacist prior to administering the medication. Use only the dispenser that came with the medication to measure dosages.
  • Install CO detectors in your home in every sleeping room and at least one on each level of your home in a common area. Follow the manufactures instructions on installation and maintenance. Do not install a CO alarm in the furnace room or generally within 15 feet of a fuel-burning appliance. Have wood stoves, furnaces, space heaters and other fuel burning appliances inspected regularly by a qualified professional.
  • If you live in a home built before 1978, have your children tested for lead exposure by your doctor or local health department. If it is determined that you have lead-based paint in your home, hire a professional company to remove or seal the lead-based paint.