toddler candy colored medicine emergency

What to Do if Your Child Ingested Anything from Medications to Marbles

Three-year-old Liam is a pint-size explorer who sometimes gets himself into adult-size trouble—like the time he spied pink jelly-bean pills on a counter. To Liam, they looked like candy, so he dragged a chair to the counter for a taste, but was stopped short when his mother walked into the room.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 60,000 emergency department (ED) visits result from unintentional medication overdoses among children under the age of 5

“If a child swallows something accidentally, an adult needs to determine immediately if the child’s health is at risk,” says Robert Belfer, MD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at Virtua pediatrician. “Children get into so many different things—from coins to pills—that safety must come first. Call 9-1-1, or drive the child to the closest emergency room.”

When children arrive at the emergency department at Virtua Memorial or Virtua Voorhees hospitals, they are examined by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) at Virtua physicians. The emergency departments provide highly specialized and child-friendly emergency care to children under age 18, and the pediatricians and pediatric nurses are certified in pediatric life support.

Samir Doshi, MD, CHOP at Virtua pediatrician, says: “The team also works closely with your child’s pediatrician, and sends a summary of the emergency room visit and any inpatient stays. This ensures that all clinical details are covered in the follow-up care of your child.

Always call 9-1-1 if a child is having trouble breathing since paramedics have medical equipment and medication, and are highly experienced in dealing with life-threatening issues.

What to do when your child accidentally:

Swallows a pill or chemical
One of grandpa’s pills can be poison to a child. Even an adult vitamin can wreak havoc by significantly changing a toddler’s glucose levels. 

If your child has ingested any pill or chemical, call your local poison control center. Keep the number on your refrigerator or near the phone. Even if a child doesn’t express immediate discomfort or symptoms, the affects could be delayed. Should the poison control center direct you to the emergency room, Virtua physicians work directly with poison control to best treat the specific agent.

Sticks a bead into an ear or nose
Do not try to get the object out of the child’s nose or ear yourself. This could accidentally push the object deeper into the cavity. 

The emergency department has special instruments that allow removal, using the safest possible methods.

Swallows a coin or other object
If it’s blocking an airway, seek immediate medical attention by calling 9-1-1. If they swallowed an object but don’t show any symptoms, have them evaluated by a physician anyway. It’s important to determine if the object will pass naturally or medical intervention is needed.

Learn more about Virtua's pediatric emergency services at Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly or Virtua Voorhees

Updated December 17, 2018

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