November 06, 1990

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and the New York Times Syndicate have been advised that the method for handling a poisoning emergency recommended in Dr. Brazelton's column "Childproofing Your Home" (published in Accent on Health Oct. 30) is not the most up-to-date first-response method recommended by the American Association of Poison Control Centers Inc. and could be harmful to a child if misused.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers offers the following guidelines for handling a poisoning emergency:

* Never give salt water to a poisoning victim -- especially a child -- to induce vomiting. Often the child does not vomit and retains the salt. In a few cases the resulting medical condition, hypernatremia, can lead to convulsions and death.

* When vomiting needs to be induced, ipecac syrup is the correct method, but a poison-control center should be consulted before ipecac is administered. A teaspoonful of ipecac can be given to children one year of age or older. This dose may be repeated only once if vomiting does not occur in 20 to 30 minutes.

* The important thing to remember is to call a poison center first before rushing to a hospital or administering an antidote.

In addition, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, baby aspirin is now an uncommon cause of childhood poisoning. Toddlers, however, will get into whatever they can find, so parents should be sure to keep poisonous substances out of reach at all times.


The Maryland Poison Center operates a 24-hour emergency hot line to provide information and treatment advice about poisonings. Staffed by professionals from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, the center answered more than 50,000 calls in 1989. About 60 percent of those calls involved children under 5.

In case of a poisoning emergency, call the poison center at these numbers:

* In metropolitan Baltimore, 528-7701;

* Throughout Maryland, 1-800-492-2414.

If a poisoning has occurred, the caller should be prepared to tell the center the name of the product ingested; the amount taken; when the incident occurred, and the age, weight and condition of the victim.

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