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Dangerous Medications for Kids

From an eMedHome.com “Clinical Pearl”

Medications which, when taken even in small amounts, can have significant adverse effects on young children.

  • Camphor, which is contained in many OTC products such as vapor rubs and Tiger Balm
  • Quinine, such as in some cardiac medications and in Placquenil which is used to treat lupus.
  • TriCyclic Antidepressants such as Elavil
  • Oral Hypoglycemics, such as diabetic medications glipizide and gluburide
  • Calcium Channel Blockers, which are fairly common blood pressure medications   
  • Methyl Salicylate, found in limaments such as Ben-Gay and as an artificial flavoring in peppermint, spearmint, wintergreeen (think of Life Savers and Altoids)
  • Theophylline, an asthma medication which has fallen out of favor in the US.    
  • Imidazolines, which are contained in the blood pressure medicine clonidine, but which can also be found in over the counter medications such as Visine and Afrin 
  • Lomotil, a medicine for severe persistent diarrhea.
  • Toxic Alcohols – such as methanol which is found in many paint removers/varnishes and which is metabolized to fomraldehyde and formic acid in the system. Ethylene glycol is also another toxic alcohol found in antifreeze and de-icing products.

If Poison Control Centers close under nationwide budget cuts, information like this (including treatment options) will be less availble.


  1. Ugh! I’ve called poison control. My son got into some Terro ant poison. Turned out there’s just enough borax in ant poison to kill an ant. Not a 30 lb toddler. Thank goodness for Poison Control. What on earth are they thinking cutting funding for that service!

    And I remember when a 17 year old track star died of Methyl Salicylate toxicity. Over used her Ben-Gay cream. So sad.

  2. If only there was a giant repository of knowledge that was easily accessible from anywhere and was connected to legions of medical databases; if only there were people who knew how to evaluate and treat toxic exposures. If only there were we could call them the Internet and doctors. If only.

    • So are you saying a consult with Doctor Google should be able to replace a call to Poison Control?

      • Doctor Google might get parents to store these things where kids can’t reach them. If funding is cut for poison centers, the Doc will be their only stop before the emergency department. :(

      • In spite of my more general disdain for the Murdoch Media Empire, it is the HuffPo Health section that makes me cringe at the idea of anyone trusting Dr. Google.

      • Amen to the Huffpo content- it’s run by quacks that hate doctors .

  3. Don’t forget benzonatate (Tessalon Perles). These gel caps can be rapidly fatal in younger children.

  4. I find the TriCyclic tidbit interesting given that I was taking imipramine daily from age 8 to sometime in my teens.

    • This is a partial list of “one pill can kill” that usually refers to toddlers. The combination of their curious nature and small body size make these particular meds very dangerous.

  5. In the grand scheme of things, cutting 27 million from the budget for a nationwide program that saves 7 dollars for each dollar spent (according to the lowest published estimate) is incredibly short sighted.

    It will take decades to recoup the costs of establishing a single nationwide center and what about the economic impact of eliminating the jobs and centers that are now established around the country? There are better ways to save money out there.

  6. I was going to be snarky about parents who leave stuff out in reach of little ones, then I remembered one that happened to me.

    I was at my kitchen counter one late night measuring out a cough suppressant for one of my kids so we could all get some sleep after a loooong siege with viral junk. I set the bottle down on the counter just so I could pick up the little cup to make sure I had measured accurately. At that moment my 5-year old swooped into the kitchen, grabbed the bottle, and before I knew what was happening she was chugging the stuff out of the bottle.

    Thank heaven for poison control. Even the most vigilant parents (I was one!) can get caught off guard.

    On the other hand, poison control didn’t have a clue what to tell me after my other daughter (age 4 at the time) stuffed her mouth with mushrooms she found in my front lawn…the lovely emergency doctor didn’t have a clue either.

  7. Don’t forget pre-natal vitamins or even regular adult versions of MVIs. The iron can kill a small child.

  8. Hey, why complain? Just sue everyone that makes these things. CLEARLY that will give them a financial incentive to stop selling such dangerous, harmful products!

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