TUESDAY, Sept. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Nicotine refill cartridges used in e-cigarettes can be opened by young children, putting them at risk for nicotine poisoning, doctors warn.
The safety of the electronic cigarette cartridges must be improved in order to reduce this threat, said the authors of an article published Sept. 9 in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Figures released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a "massive rise" in calls to poison centers about accidental swallowing of liquid nicotine from e-cigarette refill cartridges, the British researchers noted.
The calls increased from just one in September 2010 to 215 a month by February 2014, and more than half of the calls involved children younger than 5.
In children that young, just a few drops of liquid nicotine can have serious effects, including irregular heartbeat, coma, convulsions and cardiac arrest, the researchers said.
"The exploratory nature of young children and the attractive packaging of refills is a dangerous combination likely to lead to a growing incidence of accidental exposure to concentrated nicotine solution," wrote Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham, and colleagues.
"The risk posed by nicotine liquid to children needs to be recognized, acknowledged and acted upon by all. This includes public education and legislation to improve the safety profile of e-liquid containers," they concluded.
Early signs of accidental nicotine poisoning include: burning in the mouth and throat; nausea and/or vomiting; confusion and dizziness; weakness and excess saliva.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about nicotine poisoning.