Poison center stresses Fourth of July safety

Glow sticks and fireworks may be great ways to celebrate the July Fourth holiday, but the New Mexico Poison Center is reminding parents to keep a close eye on their children when using them.

Often, children confuse glow sticks and fireworks with candy and other food or drink because the bright colors and pretty packaging can be very attractive, according to Jacqueline Kakos, a health educator with the poison center, which is run by the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy.

In 2013, the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center (NMPDIC) received 164 calls regarding glow stick exposures, and 91 percent of these calls involved children under the age of 12 years. Glow sticks contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate. This chemical causes an intense burning and stinging sensation when ingested but does not actually cause burns to the tissue. Dibutyl phthalate is irritating to the mouth, eyes and nose, but these symptoms typically go away very quickly. All of the NMPDIC calls about glow stick ingestion in 2013 were safely managed at home with poison center guidance.

Fireworks contain chemicals, such as potassium nitrate, white phosphorus, barium chlorate, and arsenic. Ingesting large amounts of these chemicals can lead to electrolyte imbalances and organ failure. The majority of calls involves only small amounts and can be managed at home with poison center guidance. In 2013, the NMPDIC received seven calls regarding firework exposures, four of which involved children under the age of five years. All of these calls were safely managed at home.

If you think that someone may have eaten or swallowed glow sticks or fireworks, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Most of the time, these situations are not serious and can be managed at home with the help of the highly trained NMPDIC staff, Kakos said. If you do need to go to an emergency room, the poison experts at the NMPDIC will work together with the emergency staff in providing treatment. The NMPDIC is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including the Fourth of July.

Categories: Patient Care, College of Pharmacy

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