One of my most dramatic cases recently started like this: The police were called to the home for a domestic dispute between drunken parents. When they arrived, they found a home littered with liquor bottles, trash, and pills. They also found a three year-old girl unconscious and unresponsive on the floor. Paramedics were called.
When the child came in the ED, she was breathing and her vital signs were stable, but she would not wake up. We drew blood samples, put in a catheter for a urine sample, pinched her and called out her name, and not a peep. Everyone assumed she drank from one of the liquor bottles or took a narcotic pill from the floor, but all those tests came back negative. The police rounded up and brought in all the prescription drugs in the house- eight total- from the parents and grandparents. I called poison control and they ran all those drugs in their database. Four of the family’s meds could account for the girl’s stupor. She was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for observation. We all wondered when and if she would wake up.
If you are a parent or grandparent of a toddler or soon-to-be-toddler, now is the time to poison-proof your house. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around at the toddler’s level. Open all the drawers and cabinets to see what poisons they can get to. Pull on all furniture to see what TVs or lamps will tumble on your (and their!) head. Then clear all the dangers: put locks on cabinets or put all poisons out of reach, secure all falling hazards.
All of that, however, will only get you so far to keeping your toddler safe. As all parents know, toddlers can be fast, stealthy, and wily. How many times have I heard a parent sob: “I only turned my back for a second, and he was so fast!” To stay ahead of a toddler, you must think like a toddler. When your little one watches you cook and grab ingredients from the high cabinets, they learn that is where the food is. So they will pull the kitchen stool over, climb up, and try what is up there.
When you tell them their medicine is candy, and then they see grannie take her pill, they want grannie’s candy too. In to the weekly pill holders they’ll go. At parties, you drink out of a red plastic cup. Then later, when you drain your lawn mower’s gasoline into a red plastic cup and set that down within reach, it must be something worth drinking, right?
Therefore, to beat your toddler, you must go the extra step- poisons and pills hidden and out of reach of even footstools they can use. Toddler-proof workshops and car ports too. Don’t tell them medicine is candy to get them to take it. You can’t watch them every second of every day, so give yourself the biggest margin-for-error, the biggest lead time on them you can.
Finally, if they do get into something they shouldn’t, call Poison Control first: 1-800 222-1222. Get Poison Control stickers and put them on all phones; put the number in the contacts in your cell. The Poison Control Tech can tell you what to do and where to go. They will tell you NOT to give your child something to drink, NOT to make them vomit. They will tell you if you need to flush eyes and skin with running water.
Sometimes they will tell you to stay home, like when you call because your child drank shampoo. They will tell you if you need to see a doctor, but can come calmly. They will tell you if you need to call 911, and then they will talk to the paramedics and the recieving Emergency Department about what to expect.
So get to work on that child-proofing right now! That goes for you too, Grandma and Granddad!