Your frequent questions answered by the experts at Nationwide Children's
Q: I have a 2-year-old daughter who loves to get into things around the house. With summer approaching, I've been thinking a lot about all of the chemicals and products we have in our garage. I know these pose a risk to anyone, but just how dangerous are they, and what can I do to keep my daughter safe?
A: These chemicals and products that you mention - things like gasoline for the lawn mower, kerosene, lighter fluid, paint thinner, lamp oil and many cleaning products - all contain a chemical compound called hydrocarbons.
Hydrocarbons are extremely harmful to people if they are inhaled or ingested. In fact, hydrocarbons are one of the top 10 causes of pediatric poisoning deaths in the United States. And these injuries are more likely to occur during warm months when we use these substances for outdoor activities like mowing the lawn, grilling, painting, etc.
The most common way a child is injured by these substances is when he or she mistakes the product for a beverage or food, opens the container and ingests the substance. Often times, the child will choke on the substance and breathe it into his or her lungs - this is called "aspiration" and is extremely dangerous. Aspiration can lead to persistent coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Sometimes it can also lead to chemical pneumonia, which can be fatal.
If the child drinks the substance and it goes straight to the stomach avoiding the lungs, it may cause nausea, discomfort and belching. If the substance gets onto the skin or into the eyes, rinse the affected area with water for 20 minutes with lukewarm water.
If your child gets into any of these substances, call the Poison Center immediately and always follow up with your child's primary care physician. The Poison Center is staffed around the clock, even on holidays. The number is toll-free 800-222-1222.
-Dr. Heath Jolliff is Associate Medical Director of the Central Ohio Poison Center and a Toxicologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.