ER doctors and pediatricians want you to get rid of cottons swabs, beads and spare change
You’re a good parent. You’ve childproofed your home by locking up drawers and cabinets, putting guards over the electrical outlets and removing toxic houseplants.
But are you still using Q-Tips? Turns out, some of the safest, most innocuous household objects, like these gentle cotton swabs, can be the most dangerous.
A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics this week reports that cotton-tip applicators sent 263,338 kids to the emergency room between 1990 and 2010. That’s 34 kids a day, mostly under eight years old. And almost three-quarters of those cases involved ear-cleaning, particularly kids digging out earwax by themselves.
“It’s more common than you would believe,” said Dr. Henry Bernstein, a pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, who told Moneyish he sees scratched ear canals and eardrums coming from cotton swabs in his practice. This can lead to painful ear infections, or even ruptured eardrums.
“Pediatricians never recommend putting anything in the ear. If anything, clean around the outside with a washcloth,” he said “But that does not stop parents wanting their children’s ears to be clean. They think Q-tips are soft enough.”
Moneyish spoke with ER doctors and pediatricians to learn what other everyday objects found in every home are most likely to send kids to the hospital. Here’s seven more of the most common culprits.
- Beads: Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, said every ER doc gets schooled in removing little plastic foreign bodies out of little kids’ bodies. And the plastic beads on children’s bracelets or adult costume jewelry are the worse inevitably end up kids’ noses. “It’s not as easy to get them out as it sounds, because you risk pushing them up further,” Dr. Ardolic said. “Sometimes we can get kids to blow them out, or we pull them out with a clamp. In extreme cases where the children can’t keep calm, we actually have to sedate them to go in there.”
- Loose change: Dr. Ardolic added that ER docs lose count of how many quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies they have to get out of children’s stomachs. “Small children explore with their mouths,” he explained. “Usually we can let Mother Nature take its course, and wait for the children to pass the coins. But occasionally one doesn’t go through, and it stays in the stomach, and we have to go in endoscopically.”
- Button-size batteries: These tiny coin cell batteries have become a big problem as more gadgets like musical greeting cards, fitness trackers, electric candles, key fobs and children’s toys have become powered by the bite-size batteries. Children under 6 swallowed batteries in a reported 11,940 incidents between 2005 and 2014, according to the National Capitol Poison Center in Washington, D.C. Of those, 15 died and 101 suffered major medical problems. “So many things that you wouldn’t even think of now have these button batteries in them,” said Dr. Ardolic. “And those have acid inside them, which means we have to go in surgically to retrieve them before the acid leaks out.”
- Charging and power cords: Your outlets are covered – but the cords charging your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, or the cables running from your computer or TV are tripping hazards for kids. “How many times do you fall over cords, let alone kids?” asked Dr. Ardolic, which can lead to sprains, fractures and stitches. “And young children will chew on electrical wires because they are teething,” and that can lead to electrocution.
- Baby walkers: “Parents think infant walkers are great, because the child is confined, but they can still move around,” said Dr. Bernstein. “But in fact, it’s actually allowing them to explore much further than you anticipated.” So now your roller baby can reach that counter you thought was out of reach, and grab anything dangerous up there. “Or they can fall down stairs, or pull things down on themselves,” he added.
- Gummy vitamins and medications: As meds have been made easier for adults to swallow, they’ve also encouraged more kids to chew on them. “Kids will eat anything that looks like an M&M, and that’s what a lot of these pills with the candy-coating look like,” said Dr. Ardolic. Adult medications can seriously sicken or kill kids – like a child Dr. Ardolic recently treated who took a relative’s methadone and had to be kept in the ICU. And gummy vites are indistinguishable from gummy candy, so a kid will happily eat the whole bottle in one sitting. “That will probably just give him some gastrointestinal distress,” said Dr. Ardolic. But in worst-case scenarios, overdosing on multivitamin nutrients like iron or calcium can cause irregular heartbeat dizziness and nausea, or iron toxicity. Keep the poison control number handy: 800-222-1222.
- Baby bedding: Do not go nuts decking your little one’s crib. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that babies sleep in a bare crib with only a fitted bed sheet to prevent suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). “No bumpers, no stuffed animals, no heavy blankets, nothing,” said Dr. Bernstein. “Just the baby sleeping on his or her back.”
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