Spring and fall are both beautiful seasons, but for some people they are the time when allergies flare up and cause a lot of misery. This is also when you start seeing a lot of prescription and over the counter nose sprays and eye-drops around the house.
These products work great when used as directed, but the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) warns that they are poisonous if swallowed. It only takes less than a fifth of a teaspoon to seriously harm a child.
Parents and caregivers often leave these products out where curious toddlers can find them. Since they do not come in child-resistant packaging little ones can easily open them.
Eye drops injured more than 4500 children under the age of 5 from 1997 to 2009. Nasal sprays injured more than 1,100 children in the same age group during those years according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.)
The eye drops in question work by causing blood vessels in the eye to constrict. The nose sprays work in a similar fashion by constricting vessels in the nose. Visine is one of the most popular eye drop brands purchased and Afrin, Dristan and Mucinex nose sprays are often used for nasal allergies.
All these products contain a class of drugs called imidazolines. The active ingredients are tetrahydrozoline, naphazoline, or oxymetazonline. When applied as directed, the drugs only affect the area where they are used - such as the eyes or nose. If any of these chemicals are swallowed, then they quickly affect other areas of the body.
"Generally, symptoms can occur in as little as one hour, peaking at eight hours, and resolving after 12-36 hours," a CPSC briefing paper notes. "Even though the symptoms resolve in a relatively short amount of time, ingestion of imidazolines can result in severe life-threatening consequences, such as decreased breathing, decreased heart rate, and loss of consciousness that require hospitalization to ensure recovery."
The CPSC has asked for a new rule that requires child-resistant packaging for eye drops and nose sprays but that hasn't happened yet. If the rule should be finalized, manufacturers will still have at least a year to comply.
Right now, there are lots of these products in use and in homes where small children live. The FDA has a list of suggestions to help avoid accidental poisoning.
- Store medicines in a safe location that is too high for young children to reach or see.
- Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or a child's bedside.
- If a medicine bottle has a safety cap, relock it each time you use it.
- Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them away and out of sight when they are in your home.
- Avoid taking medicines in front of young children because they like to mimic adults.
Many parents or caregivers probably aren't aware of how dangerous these products can be if swallowed. It's a good idea to take a walk around the house and make sure that there aren't any sitting on the counters or in a drawer where little hands can reach.
A list of products containing the drugs mentioned above can be viewed by clicking on the link below.