Summertime is finally here! After another year of school – which might have looked very different than previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic – children are out of the classroom for the summer. Whether they are staying home or going to camps or on vacations, they will likely spend time exploring their environments. Children are often curious while exploring and may touch or taste something they shouldn’t. Below, we share some of the most common exposures the Maryland Poison Center (MPC) sees in children during the summer.
Berries and Mushrooms
Children are used to seeing berries and mushrooms on their dinner plates. When they are outdoors, they may mistake wild berries and mushrooms for the ones they eat at home. Teach children to never put berries or mushrooms from outside in their mouth without asking an adult first.
Bites and Stings
Children often spend more time outside during the summer. Certain critters are also more active in the warmer weather. If a child is bitten by a snake, insect, or spider, wash the area thoroughly and call the MPC right away. Stings from jellyfish found off the shores of Maryland typically produce mild symptoms. If you are stung by a jellyfish, rinse the area with salt water and then scrape the stingers off. Vinegar can stop the venom in the stingers. Avoid using urine, ammonia, rubbing alcohol, fresh water, or ice, because these may trigger the release of more venom. Read our Maryland Critters that Bite and Sting blog for more information.
Bubble Blowing Solution
Bubbles are a fun summer activity for children. Children may be curious or try to imitate adult behavior and get into the product when an adult isn’t around. A small taste of bubble blowing solution usually won’t cause any problems. If more than a small taste is consumed, a child may have an upset stomach, vomiting, or loose stools. If the product gets into the eye, flush the eye with lukewarm (not hot) water and call the poison center.
Chalk can be a choking hazard. If a child is choking on chalk, call 911 right away. Chalk eaten in small amounts will not cause harm. If a child eats chalk, give them a few sips of water and call the poison center.
We often hear about glow stick exposures during the summer, especially around the Fourth of July. Glow sticks can break open and get on a child’s skin, in their mouth, and/or in their eye. The liquid inside of the stick is not harmful when swallowed, but it does taste and smell bad. If the liquid gets in the eye, flush the eye with lukewarm (not hot) water right away and call the poison center. The liquid will cause a burning feeling in the eye, but the risk for significant injury is minimal if the eye is flushed with water right away.
Tiki Torch Fuel, Lighter Fluid, and Lamp Oil (Hydrocarbons)
The use of hydrocarbon products increases during the summer, which results in more exposures. It is very important to keep these products stored up, away, and out of sight from children. Filling your tiki torch or lamp with liquid can be difficult because the opening is small. We recommend using a funnel to fill the torch, not a small cup. Do not keep even a small amount of lighter fluid in a cup near the grill either. These products can be easily mistaken for drinks. Never put these liquids into a water bottle, cup, or any other food or beverage container to avoid confusion.
Topical products meant to be applied to the skin can cause harm when used in the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person. We commonly see an increase in exposures in children involving products such as sunscreen, insect repellents, calamine lotion, and hydrocortisone creams during the summer. When applying topicals on children, be cautious around the eyes and mouth. If any product gets in the eyes or mouth, call the poison center. Have the product close by when you call. Since children often imitate adult behavior, they may try to apply these products on their own. They might apply too much product, get the product in their eyes and/or mouth, or eat the product. Store these products up, away, and out of sight from children.
Teaching children about poisons is a great prevention tool. Visit the “Families” section of our website for poison prevention information broken down for each age group. One fun way to teach children about poison prevention is by using our activity sheets and watching our educational videos.
For more information about summer poison prevention, read our previously published blog, Summertime Poisons. Remember that calling the poison center is free and confidential. You can call for both poisoning exposures and information about poisons. You will always reach a specially trained pharmacist or nurse by calling 1-800-222-1222.