Keeping Children Safe
Many parents like to rub numbing medications on their baby’s gums to treat the discomfort of teething. Products for this purpose, called topical anesthetics, are available for purchase over the counter (OTC). Examples include Anbesol and Orajel. There are also prescription products (e.g., viscous lidocaine) that doctors sometimes recommend. However, because of safety concerns, we do not recommend that babies receive medicines containing topical anesthetics.
For many of us, the holidays will include joyous family gatherings. However, your holiday cheer will quickly fade if a child at your family gathering gets into unsecured medicines and requires a trip to the emergency department (ED). Don’t let your guard down—it can happen to a child you love. In the US, every 10 minutes a child younger than 6 years is taken to an ED to be treated for a medicine poisoning.1 Tragically, about 40 children younger than 5 years die from accidental poisonings each year—three-quarters due to medicine.2 In recent years, childhood poisonings have grown at an alarming rate.
Camphorated phenol is an antiseptic liquid containing camphor and phenol. These two ingredients, used in combination, are often used to treat pain and itching associated with conditions such as minor burns, cold sores, insect bites, itching skin and mild sunburn. Camphorated phenol is a liquid that must only be applied directly to the skin. Ingesting camphorated phenol can cause toxicity, especially in children.
In March 2013, we described a case in which a number of 9- and 10-year old children were taken to hospitals after they had ingested what they thought were breath mints but were actually nicotine replacement lozenges. The “mints” had been brought to school by a classmate. Unfortunately, we have learned of a similar incident, this time involving melatonin strips.
In February, the Chicago Sun Times reported that 16 elementary school children had been taken to local hospitals with a sudden illness. The children were 9- and 10-year olds who began vomiting after eating “mints” given to them by another classmate. It was later found that these “mints” were actually nicotine-replacement lozenges, called NiQuitin Minis (Figure 1 on page 3). (NiQuitin is a product from the United Kingdom that is sold online; however, the Nicorette brand made in the US has a similar product.) The classmate found the lozenges at home and brought them to school to share.
Here is a mother’s blog, originally submitted to JNJParents, that caregivers of small children might find of interest. The author discusses a number of “safety gaps” when keeping medicines away from curious children.
Infants who are breastfed or partially breastfed should receive a daily supplement of vitamin D starting in the first few days of life. Breast milk has only 25 units of vitamin D per liter (that’s roughly a quart or about 32 ounces). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily dose of 400 units of vitamin D for infants. Infants who drink less than a liter of formula also may need a lower dose of a vitamin D supplement. Although formula is fortified with vitamin D, enough may not be consumed each day to get the total recommended dose of 400 units.
The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) is a national leader in vaccine education for both healthcare professionals and the public. Recently, IAC announced a new and improved website to help the public get the information they need about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Visit www.vaccineinformation.org for reliable information on vaccines and their importance.
Sixth grade marks the start of middle school for many American 11-year-olds. Research also indicates that it is the age that children begin to self-medicate. With that in mind, Scholastic and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) have launched OTC Literacy, an educational campaign to raise awareness about over-the-counter medicine safety. The program is tailored to 6th graders and emphasizes that while OTC medicines are safe when used properly, it is critical to consult a parent or guardian before taking any medication.
In November 2011, we wrote about a May 2011 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning to not feed SimplyThick to infants who were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.