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."
Toddlers and babies love to put things in their mouth. They don't know when something is unsanitary or dangerous, they just like to suck and chew on things. But that natural inclination can cause big problems when they swallow something that is unsafe for consumption.
One little girl in Houston,Texas did just that.
She found a cute little gel ball, put it in her mouth then unfortunately swallowed it. It was a Water Balz.
The problem is that once a Water Balz is submerged in water, or if it ends up in the stomach, it can expand to 400 times its original size.
The 8-month-old child was brought to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston with stomach pain. Her parent's suspected that she had eaten one of her sister's Water Balz and became alarmed when they read the toy's label.
Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, told Reuters Health "It goes in small and grows on the inside and may not come out."
X-Rays taken at the hospital showed that the baby's small intestine was swollen, as if something was causing a blockage, but the X-Rays couldn't reveal what was causing it. The baby's belly continued getting bigger and bigger and her symptoms didn't go away.
"The blockage allows fluid and gas to accumulate, it is just like you step on a hose," said Olutoye, whose report appeared Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Finally, doctors decided surgery was necessary to remove the obstruction. They cut her intestine open and drew from it a bright-green Water Balz nearly an inch and a half across.
Luckily, the baby recovered and is now doing fine.
The colorful balls are small (about the size of a marble) and are an easy temptation for toddlers and even pets. While most parents wouldn't buy this product for their baby, they might buy it or one similar - for their older child. That's often how a toddler finds one to play with.