July 18, 2007
UCSD Poison Experts Reminding Public: Kids and Medicine Don’t Mix
It may be an old message but it’s worth repeating: parents and guardians need to take extra precautions in keeping medicine out of the hands of curious children.
Recently, UCSD Medical Center has treated at least 4 children who were severely burned by a highly toxic and powerful wart compound usually purchased in Mexico. In all cases, it appears the children somehow got hold of the compound and either drank it or spilled it on themselves.
“It’s just like Compound W but much stronger,” said Richard Clark, M.D., director, Division of Medical Toxicology at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and medical director of the California Poison Control System, San Diego Division, UCSD Medical Center.
The clear or gold colored liquid comes in a small glass vial about two inches long. The cap on the bottle may be tan colored and pops off easily, with a simple flick of the finger. That’s the key problem. There is no child-safe cap on these bottles from Mexico.
“It’s not packaged in anything that keeps kids out of it,” says Clark. “And what’s inside is dangerous.”
The main ingredient in the compound is most often salicylic acid, the active compound in aspirin. Usually, a compound such as this is applied directly to the skin, over the wart. The powerful ingredients work on the lesion or wart causing it to die and peel off the skin. Imagine what that powerful medicine is doing to the inside of a busy baby or toddler.
“It causes a caustic burn, an acid burn,” says Clark. “It burns the mouth, esophagus and even the stomach. The burn can be so bad that the child has to have surgery or the esophagus never works properly again.”
The message here is simple: these products, as well as all other medicines and medical products, must be kept in a safe place, out of a child’s reach.
The California Poison Control System (CPCS), San Diego Division, is housed at the University of California San Diego Medical Center. CPCS is the statewide provider of 24-hour immediate, free and expert treatment advice. Trained health care professionals give assistance over the telephone 365 days a year in case of exposure to poisonous, hazardous or toxic substances.
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