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Essential health information from local experts

Beware Holiday Hazards for Kids

With SMH Emergency Medicine/Toxicology Clinical Pharmacist Jeremy Lund


The holidays are a magical time, but the decorations, merrymaking and magic also can present unexpected hazards, especially for children. Keep everyone safe this season with these tips for poison prevention during the holidays. 

Alcoholic Beverages

If you're planning to host a family get-together or holiday party with children in attendance, be sure alcoholic beverages are not left unattended. Adventurous youngsters may want to try what the adults are drinking.  

Poinsettia Plants

These beautiful red plants, synonymous with the holidays for many, are in the family Euphorbia, a giant class of plants that are usually all toxic to human skin and the eyes. Keep young children and pets away from poinsettas; place them off the ground and out of reach. Be sure children don't break apart the leaves or get any of the pollen in their eyes or on their skin. It can cause a rash or an ocular exposure, both of which can pretty painful. Poinsettias are also toxic if ingested in large amounts; if eaten in small amounts, they can cause mild stomach upset, even in pets.

Button Batteries 

Be aware of any holiday decorations or gifted toys that have button batteries.

These shiny, coin-shaped batteries are not only a choking hazard, but when they become lodged in the esophagus, they react quickly with saliva and discharge an electrical current that generates hydroxide, creating a caustic (alkaline) injury to the tissue. 

Serious damage can occur in as little as two hours. If a battery ingestion goes unnoticed or untreated, the erosive injury will progress rapidly over several hours and could be fatal. 

After ingestion, a child might vomit, refuse to eat, develop a cough, or become feverish or listless. Other symptoms include wheezing, drooling, chest discomfort, and choking or gagging while eating or drinking. 

If you think a child swallowed a battery, DO NOT WAIT for symptoms to develop. Call 9-1-1, or take the child to the closest hospital emergency room immediately. If you have honey on hand and the child is older than 1, feed him/her honey en route to emergency care. 

For more on preventing, recognizing and treating button battery ingestion, click here

Marijuana-infused Edibles

If you have visitors from other states or countries where medical or recreational marijuana is legal, they could bring marijuana-infused edibles int o your household. Brownies, cookies and other foods that contain THC (marijuana's active ingredient) look exactly like those that do not. Ingesting these can make children very ill.

If any marijuana-infused edibles are brought into your home, be sure they are locked up and out of reach of any children and pets.

If you have questions about poison hazards or suspect a poisoning, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. In an emergency, call 9-1-1.

For minor illnesses or injuries, remember that Sarasota Memorial's six Urgent Care Centers are open 8am to 8pm daily through the holidays (except Christmas Day). Check in online or through the SMH Urgent Care app to save time and your spot in line.

Jeremy LundSarasota Memorial Emergency Care/Toxicology Clinical Pharmacist Jeremy Lund, PharmD, MS, BCCCP, BCPS, has treated numerous emergency cases of accidental poisonings and chemical exposures, including many preventable pediatric poisonings.

Posted: Dec 13, 2018,
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