Holiday Hazard Tips from the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

CINCINNATI -- The holiday season is usually a time of joy but it also brings the potential for poisonings, according to doctors and experts at the Drug and Poison Information Center (DPIC) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The following are DPIC tips and reminders to ensure that families have a safe holiday season.

  • Alcohol can be a toxic ingredient. Ethyl alcohol is found in holiday beverages and in gifts such as cologne and perfumes. DPIC experts remind adults to never over consume alcohol. They also remind adults to remove all alcoholic beverages, products and gifts that contain alcohol out of a child’s reach.
  • Poinsettias can cause irritation. Children who play with the Poinsettia plant leaves and then rub their eyes can experience redness and irritation. Though serious injuries do not occur due to ingestion of domestic varieties of Poinsettia plants, parents are advised to call DPIC if their child swallows pieces of the plant.
  • The berries of a few varieties of Holly are reported to be poisonous. There are 400 different variations of Holly. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a slowing down of breathing and heart rate can occur after ingestion of Holly berries. The exact nature of toxic chemicals found in Holly berries is unknown, but it should be noted that deaths have occurred in children who have consumed as few as 12 berries. The leaves of Holly could potentially contain toxic chemicals. Parents should call DPIC if their child ingests Holly.
  • Toys can contain button or disc batteries. Disc batteries are small and coin-shaped and they are often found in handheld games, watches and other portable devices. If ingested they can become lodged in the esophagus and cause serious injury and death. Parents should seek medical attention if they suspect their child has ingested a button battery.
  • Jerusalem Cherries allegedly contain Solanine. Solanine is found in several plants with known toxic potential but reports of toxicity in Jerusalem Cherries are sparse. Reported signs and symptoms of Solanine toxicity include dilated pupils, salivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, bloating, diarrhea, respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, confusion, irregular heartbeat, coma and death. It is not yet known how many Jerusalem Cherries would have to be ingested to cause poisoning so it is advised to call DPIC if a child ingests any part of a Jerusalem Cherry.
  • Some essential oils and flavors can be toxic if ingested. Some ingredients that are in essential oils such as salicylates in oil of wintergreen, menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, and other oils and flavorings, can be extremely toxic if ingested. Other products may have high alcohol content or the potential to cause severe problems if ingested.
  • Care must be taken to avoid skin contact when using dry ice. Dry ice is composed of carbon dioxide. Skin contact can cause tissue damage, and burns to the mouth can occur from ingestion. Flush the skin with lukewarm water if direct exposure occurs, and give lukewarm water to drink if a solid piece is swallowed.

If anyone has inquiries about other products in their home that may be hazardous, they are welcome to call DPIC at 513-636-5111 or toll free at 1-800-222-1222 any time of night or day.

About Cincinnati Children's

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 Best Children's Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for gastroenterology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties - a distinction shared by only two other pediatric hospitals in the United States. Cincinnati Children's is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org

Contact Information

Danielle Jones, 513-636-9473, danielle.jones@cchmc.org