Serious accidents and chemical burns of children in the home

Doctors at the Mönchengladbach clinic warn
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Serious accidents with children in the home

Chemical burns, scalds and poisonings: Children and young people, some of whom are seriously injured, are admitted to the pediatric clinic at Elisabethhospitalet in Rheydt. Doctors want to raise awareness about the dangers of medicines, cleaning products, but also toys.

The teenager was very thirsty and wanted to extinguish it with a soda. What he did not know: there was industrial oven cleaner in the drinking bottle – which quickly caused severe chemical burns in his esophagus. He was taken to Elisabeth Hospital by ambulance.

This case only happened recently and is a reason for the clinic’s pediatricians to warn about the dangers of chemicals and medicines in the home. They are always at risk when they are accessible to children and arouse their curiosity or are stored or labeled differently. “Detergents are unfortunately one of the classics,” says chief physician Daniel Kever. “Especially products actually used in industry are very aggressive and can lead to serious, sometimes permanent damage, for example to the airways, larynx or stomach.”


    Mirjam Neunzig and Daniel Kever from Elisabeth Hospitalet in Rheydt regularly deal with poisoning of children and young people.

Mirjam Neunzig and Daniel Kever from Elisabeth Hospitalet in Rheydt regularly deal with poisoning of children and young people.
Photo: René Hartmann

Again and again, children and adolescents come to the clinic with severe chemical burns, scalds or poisoning. The doctors at Rheydter Børnehospital count one to two cases of medication poisoning in minors per week. “It shows how fragile life is on a small scale,” says pediatrician Kever. The poison emergency telephone in Bonn is also in high demand at the moment, as a current message on the website makes it clear.

Once or twice a year in Mönchengladbach, there are as severe chemical burns as now with furnace cleaners, according to doctors. Also last year, while trying to open a bottle of chlorine tablets to the pool, a young man exposed himself to the harmful fumes from the old substance left in the sun, which burst under the pressure. There was severe damage to the lungs.

In another case, a child accidentally drank antifreeze. The insidious here: The substance tastes sweet; and the symptoms first set in with a delay. The general rule is: “You should never wait until the symptoms appear, but act immediately,” emphasizes Daniel Kever. To act means to take the child to the hospital, call the emergency services or get information from the poison control center in Bonn. In case of poisoning or chemical burns, it is important to act quickly. “It is also very important not to make the child vomit to get rid of the drug. This can have the opposite effect and cauterize the esophagus even more. Drinking something afterwards can also be wrong, ”explains the pediatrician.

Most accidents happen at home and not on the road – this also applies to or especially children, says chief physician Mirjam Neunzig. In children under one year it is mainly a decrease, between one and four years it is primarily about “accidental poisoning”. 90 identified some recent sources of danger. Children play more with electronic toys, and they often use high-density button cell batteries. “They put children in their mouths and swallow them like candy.” Unlike conventional batteries, these are not discarded as quickly. It can happen that they get stuck in the throat and lead to a “thermal reaction” there – like a combustion of electricity from within. Although the button cells get down into the stomach, they can cause more damage when the corrosive substances are released. According to her, magnetic games with small balls are also treacherous, which would also be swallowed by small children. “The children may not even tell you about it, and it will only be undetected,” says the pediatrician. However, it can lead to the intestinal mucosa getting pinched between them – this has also happened before. It is therefore important to observe your child and respond to symptoms such as increased salivation.

What doctors say is the most common is drug poisoning. The child does not always grab anything from an unsecured closet. Sometimes parents accidentally give the wrong dose or give their child a drug that is actually intended for an adult. Babies are also affected. A mother would give her few-week-old baby a suppository for the fever, instead of the correct 75 milligrams for age, she used 1000 milligram paracetamol suppositories for adults, which was almost 14 times as high, doctors describe such an incident. “Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases, but often occur at night when they are half asleep,” reports pediatrician Kever. Undetected, such an overdose can lead to liver failure and even death. Beetle: “Fortunately, the mother realized her mistake quickly and acted immediately, so the baby will not suffer any permanent harm.”

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