Poison-Proofing Your House: Quiz

By Chris Woolston, M.S.

1. Roughly what percentage of childhood poisonings are fatal?

a. 50 percent

b. 10 percent

c. 1 percent

d. Far less than 1 percent

2. Which of the following household items is the most harmful if swallowed?

a. Liquid dish soap

b. Liquid or powdered automatic dishwashing detergent

c. Fluoride toothpaste

d. Mouthwash

3. Which one of these medicines and supplements fatally poisons the most young children in the U.S.?

a. Aspirin

b. Multivitamins

c. Ibuprofen

d. Prescription medication

4. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when should you give your child syrup of ipecac (a drug that causes vomiting)?

a. Whenever you suspect your child has swallowed something poisonous

b. Only when your child has swallowed something noncaustic, such as prescription medicines

c. Only after a doctor says it's okay

d. Never -- you shouldn't even have ipecac in the house

5. Which of these common plants is NOT considered to be potentially deadly if eaten?

a. Nasturtium (flowers)

b. Mistletoe (berries)

c. Oleander (leaves)

d. Daffodil (bulbs)

6. What's the best way to keep children from getting poisoned from over-the-counter and prescription medications?

a. Never call medicine candy.

b. Make sure house guests don't leave medicines lying around.

c. Keep all medicines out of reach.

d. All of the above

7. You think someone has been poisoned, and you've already identified the substance and made sure there isn't any more of it in the victim's mouth. What should you do next?

a. Induce vomiting.

b. Wait to see if the person has any symptoms.

c. Call the family doctor.

d. Call the national poison control hotline.

ANSWERS

1. Roughly what percentage of childhood poisonings are fatal?

The correct answer is: d. Far less than 1 percent

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 34 children under age 6 died of unintentional poisoning in 2007. Assuming that roughly 1.2 million kids that age were accidentally poisoned in that year, the death rate is a tiny fraction of a percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics attributes this low death rate to child-resistant packaging, the establishment of poison control centers, and increasing awareness about the hazards of poisons.

2. Which of the following household items is the most harmful if swallowed?

The correct answer is: b. Liquid or powdered automatic dishwashing detergent

Fluoride toothpaste, liquid dishwashing soap, and mouthwash are all relatively harmless in small amounts, but automatic dishwashing detergent is in the same league as drain cleaner. A report from Johns Hopkins University calls automatic dishwashing detergent "among the most dangerous products in the home." These detergents are extremely caustic, especially the liquid varieties. Just a few drops in a child's mouth or eyes can cause serious damage. If you think your child has swallowed automatic dishwasher detergent, wipe off any remaining detergent, give him or her some water or milk to drink, and get the child to an emergency room immediately. If even a small amount of the detergent gets in the child's eyes, flush the eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and get immediate medical help.

3. Which one of these medicines and supplements fatally poisons the most young children in the U.S.?

The correct answer is: d. Household medications

In 2010, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported most young children who died from accidental poisoning, died after ingesting medications prescribed for adults. All medications, even those with child-resistant packaging, should be kept out of children's reach. Vitamins can also cause a fatal iron overdose.

4. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when should you give your child syrup of ipecac (a drug that causes vomiting)?

The answer is: d. Never -- you shouldn't even have ipecac in the house

In a reversal of longstanding practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer encourages parents to keep ipecac in the home. The drug can be helpful in rare cases, but it can also be harmful when misused. If you have ipecac in your medicine cabinet, the safest thing to do is throw it away.

5. Which of these common plants is NOT considered to be potentially deadly if eaten?

The answer is: a. Nasturtium (flowers)

Nasturtium flowers can actually be eaten in salads, as long as they have been grown without pesticides. In contrast, mistletoe berries, oleander leaves, and daffodil bulbs are all highly poisonous and potentially lethal.

6. What's the best way to keep children from getting poisoned from over-the-counter and prescription medications?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

If you have little ones around, treat medications like any other dangerous chemical. Keep all drugs in a cabinet or other place far away from children, and never call your medicine candy.

7. You think someone has been poisoned, and you've already identified the substance and made sure there isn't any more of it in the victim's mouth. What should you do next?

The correct answer is: d. Call the national poison control hotline.

The national number, no matter where you live, is 1-800-222-1222. It's easy to remember, but write it down anyway in a prominent place near your home telephone or program it into your cell phone. It could save a life. Most family doctors will not have all the information needed at their fingertips, and they probably won't respond as fast in a pinch. The poison control center is available 24 hours a day, and they can answer in as little as 20 seconds, with people who can speak English and Spanish.

References

National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Poisoning fact sheet. 2004.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poisonings: Fact sheet. August, 2004.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Poison treatment in the home. Pediatrics. November, 2003.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Protect children from iron poisoning.

Yale New-Haven Hospital. Syrup of Ipecac can be harmful in treating poisoned children.

Johns Hopkins University. Put dishwasher detergents out of children's reach.

Environmental Protection Agency. Product matrix: Detergent.

Edible Flowers. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Section 23, Chapter 307. Poisoning.

American Association of Poison Control Centers. 2005 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poisoning and Exposure Database. http://www.aapcc.org/

American Association of Poison Control Centers. 2006 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System.

American Association of Poison Control Centers. 2007 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System.

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