5 years ago, Kevin and Billie Lombardo faced every parent’s nightmare – they lost one of their children. 3 year old twins, Chloe and Kevin Jr., were playing when they climbed up on the top of the counter and got into the medicines. The crisis wasn’t discovered until Chloe came into her mother’s room and let her know.
“Mommy, I sick.”
Billie realized the magnitude of the incident when she discovered a medicine bottle lying on the ground, open even though the top was supposed to be child-resistant. She rushed the twins to the hospital where both of them fell into a coma. Her husband, who was deployed in Baghdad, was ordered to return home. Unfortunately he made it 45 minutes too late – Chloe died before he got there.
5 years later, Kevin Jr. is the surviving twin. The family still holds a place for Chloe in the family – hanging a stocking in her honor and her birthday is still remembered. And the medicine? It is now in a lockbox, even though all the kids in the family are past the toddling ages.
But it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Just because a medicine bottle claims to be child-resistant, it is not guaranteed to be child-proof. And let’s face it, toddlers are inquisitive. Even the most diligent parent among us is bound to lose sight of their child once in awhile. And it only takes a moment for a toddler to climb up on a countertop and get into the medication, as the Lombardo family learned in a heart-wrenching lesson.
All medication should be locked up – left out of reach of children who might get into it when your back is turned. When visiting other homes, ensure that all medications are out of the access of your children. However, it is difficult to monitor your surrounding areas 100% of the time to ensure that it is always free of medications your child can get their hands on. Pills can be dropped on the ground of hotel rooms or public places. Even a visitor to your home can accidentally drop a pill or leave their purse in accessible areas with easy open containers that hold potentially lethal medication. Teach your child as much as possible to keep away from medication, handing them to you rather than putting them in their mouth. And educate yourself on the symptoms should your child consume something dangerous.
If you suspect your child has ingested medicine, call 911 or poison control immediately: 1-800-222-1222
Do not induce vomiting, but do be prepared to go to the ER, bringing the bottle of medicine your child has consumed, if possible.
Here is a list of some of the most common medicines that can have toxic, sometimes fatal, effects:
Scientific names: Diltiazem, Verapamil, Amlodipine, Nifedipine
Brand names: Cardizem, Cartia, Norvasc
Symptoms can take 1-5 hours to show up in children, but up to 14 hours in the extended release tabs. It can cause extremely low blood pressure and heart rate, seizures, and even shock. By the time the symptoms have developed very little can be done to reverse the effects, so if it is discovered that they have swallowed any of these pills, it is imperative to get them to the ER right away.
Scientific name: Camphor
Brand names: Vicks VapoRub, Ben-Gay, Tiger Balm, Save the Baby
You’d think that toddlers would be repelled from eating a rub that smells as pungent as Vicks. But toddlers are notorious for putting anything in their mouths. And just one teaspoon can be lethal. Within 10-20 minutes of ingesting a muscle rub, a toddler can start suffering seizures with no warning at all. They may become restless or hyperactive after eating the medicine, and the area around their lips might turn blue. In the worst cases, they slip into a coma, have respiratory distress, or stop breathing altogether. If the menthol smell of the medicine is apparent on a toddler’s breath, call 911 immediately.
Prescription Pain Medications
Scientific names: Oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone
Brand names: Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin and others
Within an hour, children who have taken these pills will become sleepy and lethargic, and can eventually stop breathing and die. Luckily, there is an antidote for these narcotics – Naloxone – and paramedics routinely carry it with them. If your child has ingested prescription pain meds, it is imperative to let the paramedics know.
Aspirin and Oil of Wintergreen
Scientific names: Acetylsalicylic acid, methyl salicylate
Brand names: Bayer, Ecotrin and others
These medicines are meant to help prevent heart attacks in adults, and to relieve muscle pain. But they are extremely toxic to children in the high doses they generally come in. In fact, one teaspoon of Oil of Wintergreen is the same as 90 baby aspirins! An overdose on these drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, and sweating. Eventually, it will cause swelling in the brain, coma, and possibly death. The liquid forms are even more dangerous since it releases even more rapidly.
Scientific names: Amitriptyline, imipramine, buproprion
Brand names: Elavil, Tofranil, Wellbutrin, Zyban
Anti-depressants are the 2nd most common drug that has resulted in the death of children under the age of 6. It takes about 6 hours for the symptoms to reveal themselves. Just one pill can cause seizures, coma, or heart arrhythmias.
Topical Blood Pressure Patches, Eye Drops, and Nasal Sprays
Scientific names: Clonidine, oxymetazoline
Brand name: Afrin, Clear Eyes, Clonidine patch
Even a patch that has already been used can be toxic to a young child. These topical medicines are meant to be absorbed over time, and symptoms can be delayed for up to 4 hours. Death from these is unlikely, but can still cause lethargy, coma, or low blood pressure.
Scientific Name: Sulfonylureas
Brand name: Glyburide, Glipizide
It takes 1-6 hours for the symptoms of these medications to occur, but the symptoms can last up to 24 hours. A child without diabetes has less energy stores than an adult has, making them more susceptible to the drug’s effects. The symptoms can be paralysis, sleepiness, confusion, headaches, and seizures. It has even caused permanent brain damage or death in some children. However, a natural antidote would be glucose.
Info gathered from the On Call & Wellness Center at abcnews.go.com