1-800-222-1222 (Poison Control Center’s National Number)

By Megan

I’ve never had to call the Poison Control Center before.

I suppose I was naive in thinking I might get through parenthood without ever dialing the number up there in the title line, my hands shaking, my voice a quivering combination of tears and terror. This weekend, though, that hideous nightmare woke up at the FriedOkra household, and I now have the Poison Control phone number embossed, taped, spray-painted and cross-stitched on at least one permanent fixture in every room.

I’ve also had my heart in my throat for nearly 24 hours now and I expect it’s going to stay there for another week or two.

He can’t walk, open a cabinet, or pry the lid off a safety-sealed medicine bottle, but Mr. Peabody nearly ended up in the emergency room eating a heapin’ helping of charcoal all the same, thanks to poor communication between his parents.

Our little guy’s busily cutting his first two teeth this week (well, this week and the past 4 months, if teething and pools of drool are any indication of such) and although we TRY to help him as best we can with teething rings and cool washcloths and our own ACHING FINGERS, Saturday afternoon found him miserable and crying at nap time, so I reluctantly gave him a dose of infant acetominophen, nursed him, and lay him down to sleep in his crib.

He fumed a bit, grizzled, whined and sent out the occasional shriek as he played with a small stuffed dog Bean and I bought for him before he was born, and I sat listening on the other side of his nursery wall in my own bedroom, waiting to hear if he’d erupt into big cries or slowly chat himself off to sleep. To my great relief, he finally quieted and I settled deep into my chair to do some reading.

Fifteen minutes later, Al wandered into the bedroom, yawning and stretching.
“Did you take a nap?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, “I was rocking Peabody to sleep.”
“Oh. I thought he’d gone to sleep on his own.”
“Nah, I went in because I heard him fussing a little and I saw his nose was running and he was chewing his fist, so I gave him some Tylenol.”

(All air spontaneously sucked out of room in brief silent pause.)

“You gave him Tylenol? I gave him Tylenol! How much did you give him?” I breathlessly squeaked out.

“The dosage on the bottle for his weight.”

Panic time.

Al rushed to Peabody’s room to retrieve the bottle of infant Tylenol and I simultaneously searched online for the state Poison Control phone number and anything I could find on acetomenophen overdoses in six-month-olds. I picked up the phone, nearly paralyzed with fear at what I’d read online, and spoke with a stern-sounding but efficient representative at the Poison Control Center. Turns out that since I gave Peabody only HALF the dose for his weight (unless a drug’s been prescribed by my kids’ pediatrician, I always try to make do with a very low dose for the child’s size and age, because I really don’t like giving meds to children at all), the combination of Al’s full dose and my half dose didn’t add up to a dose that posed risks for Peabody. He only got a dose and a half.

A double dose, though, can be harmful.

Even slightly larger-than-appropriate doses of the very commonly-used acetomenophen, often given as a result of poor communication between a child’s caregivers, CAN BE FATAL.

Which brings me to my point.

If you and your spouse or other participants in  your child’s daily care HAVEN’T established a clear plan for communicating about the administration of medicines and over-the-counter drugs for your kids, PLEASE DO IT NOW.

1. Of course, first and foremost, post any and all relevant emergency numbers close to every phone and carry them with you in your purse or wallet, as well. The national number for the Poison Control Center above automatically rolls to your own state’s PC Center, so 800-222-1222 is the number to know, no matter where you are in the US.

2. Talk to your spouse or other adults who share responsibility for caring for your child(ren) and agree that you will immediately check with each other BEFORE you give a child any medicine.

3. I’m also instituting a back-up plan in case verbal communication breaks down somehow. I’m placing a small card and pencil in the boxes with all of our kids’ medicines so that with each dose, we can write the child’s name, date, time and amount given.

4. I won’t tell you how to dose your kids, but I will suggest that you make sure you’ve done your research about the recommended dosage and the side-effects and potential dangers of each drug you give your child BEFORE you give it to them. All of this information is readily available online by searching on the name of the drug. Based on what your research reveals, if the drug and dosage haven’t been directly prescribed by your child’s physician, you might want to use a conservative smaller-than-recommended dose first and then increase it as needed, but never above the stated safe dosage based on weight. (If you don’t know your child’s weight, you can easily determine it by weighing both of you, then just you, and subtracting your own weight from your combined weight.)

Peabody’s fine and dandy. But you can be sure we’ve learned a very, very important lesson we’ll NEVER forget. I’m hoping I can help somebody else learn it now, too, vs. having to learn it the hard way, as we almost did.

Find Megan blogging at FriedOkra.

23 Responses to 1-800-222-1222 (Poison Control Center’s National Number)
  1. Kara
    February 2, 2009 | 1:22 am

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve had to call poison control twice and it is terrifying. (BTW Wite-Out is not toxic if swallowed but is if inhaled, and a small taste of hemorrhoid cream isn’t dangerous either.) Like you I tend to give a lower dose of tylenol or ibuprofen then recommended, I’m afraid of overdosing, but it is good to know how dangerous it can be to give too much.

  2. T with Honey
    February 2, 2009 | 1:08 pm

    The title of this post had me so worried about the residents of Fried Okra Manor. So glad to hear that everything turned out OK!

    I have always gone to Honey before giving Princess any medication to A) check if he gave her anything and B) to let him know that I was about to medicate her. It used to drive him nuts. You know where this is going, right?

    It drove him nuts until that one time when he had already given her something but hadn’t told me. Now we both follow this policy to ask each other before giving any medication.

  3. Michele
    February 2, 2009 | 2:58 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. My heart was in my throat as I was reading it. You’re right, it could happen to anyone, and thank you so much for all the tips at the end of the post. They are so helpful and could save lots of people the scare you guys had.

  4. Christy
    February 2, 2009 | 4:30 pm

    We had a poison control moment when 19 month old Bug ate hand sanitizer (sleep deprived mama left it out after changing the newborn LadyBug). This is something that I’m always paranoid about. This is one of the few flaws with having a partner who takes equal responsibility for the kids! I’m glad it worked out ok.

  5. Mama Bub
    February 2, 2009 | 5:43 pm

    I was holding my breath and had tears in my eyes while reading. I have Poison Control’s number taped to all of our phones after accidentally giving Bub some chicken basted in honey before his 1st birthday. He was fine but the fear that I had given my child botulism was enough to scare me into hyper vigilance.

  6. jennifer bowen
    February 3, 2009 | 12:15 am

    well i never had to call the 1 800 #befor but its always grate to have when you need it also i do re call when i was a kid thay use to have some one come out to well like your schools and things and talk abt poison and well give the kids stickers with a green guy on them mr? i for got his name but well any time i seen tthat guy or the cross bones on some thing i well had knowed it was some thing i was not to play with and well most things like cleaners and stuff i keep out and a way from my children i try and keep them in the basement or even up high where thay can not get at them. and well soap is some thing you should not let your kids eat it can do some thing to the kidnees but if that happens well then you have to givethem a lot of milk to drink but well i hope that never does happen to any one. as for me its happen to me when i was younger thay well use to use soap any time i would say a bad word in well shool and thats when i get the soap but at home since my mom was a cna she well had knowed what soap could do to some one and when she found outwhat the school was doing to me she said some thing abt it. as for how i know you should drink a lots of milk well my mom use to take care of a guy who use to like eating soap and well any time he did that at the old folks home well thay give him lots of milk to drink.

  7. Fiddledeedee
    February 5, 2009 | 8:07 am

    Beautifully said. We’ve totally done the same thing here in the insane asylum.

    And Poison Control is #1 on our speed dial.

    Followed by Carrabbas Take Away Service.

  8. Karen
    February 5, 2009 | 10:07 am

    Yep, I’ve had to call myself. Apparently parents have trouble with the cap on that Motrin bottle but it’s no problem for a resourceful 4 year old! Needless to say there is NO medicine out of the locked cabinet now (not that I knew it was out and in her reach then!). FYI – It takes a LOT of Motrin to harm them, thankfully, much more than the double dose my oldest had before I caught her.

  9. Laura
    February 5, 2009 | 11:48 am

    SO scary! I have the number in my cell phone as well. One of my kids got into (wait for it…) GRANDMA’S PURSE, where she had (of course) HEART MEDICINE! Scary times.

    My husband and I have a medicine dosing policy, which we adhere to at all times. He’s Mister Anal about safety, and he came up with it all on his own: I give the kids medicine. Period. Nobody else does, unless I’m out of town or something. I write down on the fridge calendar what I’ve given the kids. Just a simple, “Nikki Advil 1tsp – 4 pm” notation. That way, someone can tell what medicine my kids have had, but still – nobody gives it to them but me, so we don’t have this, “I didn’t know she already had her medicine!” back and forth thing. It works for us!

  10. amber
    February 5, 2009 | 1:15 pm

    I’ve had to call poison control before, too. My dad had rubbing alcohol in a drinking bottle (had to do with the project he was working on) and I assumed it was water and made a bottle with it for our 2nd child who was around 6 months. She wouldn’t drink it, but I called PC anyway. Another time, I was cleaning the bathtub and my oldest, then 2, came up behind me, picked up the spray bottle next to me without me noticing, and sprayed it into her mouth. I’m pretty sure I’ve had to call for our 3rd child also, but I can’t remember why. There’s NO telling – he’s a BOY! ; )

    But as far as medicines go, hubs decided a while back that I’m the only one that administers medicines and vitamins. This was partially to make sure that we don’t double dose and mostly as a rule for the kids who are getting older now (8,5 and 3) that they’re not allowed to get their own. The rule in our house, “Momma is the only one that can give medicine.” Period.

  11. Melissa
    February 5, 2009 | 1:21 pm

    Gosh! I’m glad you are all okay after that scary day! Thanks for posting all the ideas. We haven’t had to go there, yet, but I suspect we will someday. I’m going to make sure Dave and I develop a medicine policy tonight.

  12. Angie
    February 5, 2009 | 2:07 pm

    Oh my Gosh! That is scary and could happen so easily, too, if you think about it! I am SO thankful it all turned out to be okay. Thank you for posting this..I hope lots of parents see it!

  13. Darcy
    February 5, 2009 | 11:17 pm

    I’m so glad everything is OK! How scary for you. Good communication, medication cards, and medication “policies” are all great ideas.

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