Babies and children are being admitted to hospital after accidentally taking both illicit and legal drugs and poisons – and the effects can be devastating.
That’s the stark warning from a paediatric nurse, who recently told The Motherish that it was a “distressing” problem in Australia today.
The nurse, who has worked in Australian hospitals for almost a decade and who wished to remain anonymous, said it was not unusual for children to accidentally consume their parents’ illicit drugs, as well as legal medicines and common cleaning products.
She said she had seen children who had been exposed to illegal drugs via their mothers’ breast milk, and that the children of drug addicts were also at risk of accidentally consuming their parents’ stash.
“I have seen a young two-year-old that has taken illicit drugs that were left lying around the home. That was really distressing. And I know of other stories like that,” she said.
“I see children at the acute stage and from there they either go home [once they recover] or they might need to be removed [from their home].
“It’s very distressing for all the nurses because it can cause permanent brain damage. It’s not a good outcome.”
She said kids who were admitted after absorbing illicit drugs often came from troubled homes.
“The house may not be a safe one. If you are taking illicit drugs with children around, you’re probably not in the best state of mind,” she said.
But the nurse warned that it was far more common for children to accidentally take medicines or poisons that were not locked away properly, usually while being cared for by grandparents or friends.
“It generally happens when the kids are in a different environment than their home. When they’re at home, the medicine is probably locked away but when they are somewhere else it’s not necessarily kept out of reach.
“Accidents happen – children are inquisitive and they often don’t know that they shouldn’t be touching something. It’s hard to educate a child, especially when they are toddlers. And they don’t know what the poison signs mean.”
The nurse had some timely advice for all parents.
“If grandparents are babysitting, just ask them to put things away and put locks on the medicine cabinet and on the laundry and kitchen cupboards. Prevention is the main thing – if they can’t get to it, they can’t take it.”
And another warning sign?
“If children aren’t making noise, it’s a good sign that something is going on.”
Parents should be alert for symptoms including drowsiness, vomiting, floppiness and unusual behaviour.
If you suspect your child has taken something, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (in NSW, ACT and TAS) or take them directly to hospital.
Has your child ever consumed something they shouldn't have? /
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