(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Summer is just around the corner and that means more driving, more lawn mowing and more hedge trimming. But, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, it can also mean more trips to the emergency room for children because of chemical injuries.
During a 10-year study period, researchers at the Central Ohio Poison Center and the Center for Injury Research and Policy, both at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, reported 40,158 emergency room visits by kids age 5 and under who had swallowed or had been exposed to hydrocarbons.
Hydrocarbons, a chemical compound that can be found in household cleaning products, gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid and turpentine, are among the top 10 causes of pediatric poisoning deaths in the U.S. Gasoline is the product most commonly associated with visits to the ER and calls to poison centers, with exposures often happening during the refueling of a vehicle.
Though chemical injuries are declining, nearly a third of these exposures happened during the summer, most frequently in 1- and 2-year-old boys, according to the study.
“The good news is that the number of injuries has declined significantly between 2000 and 2009 because of changes in packaging laws and public awareness,” said study co-author Heath Jolliff, DO, associate medical director for the Central Ohio Poison Center. “Unfortunately, more children are poisoned from hydrocarbons because of incidents at home, demonstrating a greater need for preventive education for parents.”
Lara McKenzie, PhD, MA, a study co-author and principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy, said it is common for curious children to “mistakenly identify hydrocarbons as a food or beverage and attempt to ingest the poison.”
“The changing seasons should remind parents to ensure proper storage of hydrocarbons in their original containers,” she said.
Along with keeping a watchful eye on children when these products are being used, Jolliff and McKenzie offer these safety tips for parents:
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