Personal care products such as makeup, creams, lotions and other toiletries are abundant in the bathrooms and bedrooms of every home. Personal care products continue to be the number one non-pharmaceutical substance involved in poisoning exposures. While you cannot keep these and other products out of the home it is important to realize their potential dangers to your children.
Your child may be attracted to these products for a number of reasons:
Most exposures to personal care products occur in the home, but many also occur at salons. Your child may get bored while waiting for you to get your hair cut or nails done and may go "exploring." Manicurist tables are just the right height for a toddler to be able to reach the top. Few salons are baby-proof.
Hair permanents and relaxers are dangerous in very small amounts, even if marked "no lye." They are made of strong bases which can cause severe burns to your child's mouth, throat and stomach. The burns may not show up immediately but develop over a few hours. A child who swallows this type of product may appear fine right after the exposure, but will develop symptoms several hours later.
Most hair coloring products contain a chemical called paraphenylenediamene which can cause severe vomiting when ingested. Simple skin contact may result in an allergic reaction such as swelling of your child's face, neck and throat.
Shampoos and conditioners are not poisonous even when medicated, but the detergents they contain are irritating and may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Hair sprays and gels contain alcohol, but in such small amounts that a taste does not present a problem.
Nail primers, which are used to roughen the surface of the fingernail, are among the most dangerous products. They are highly acidic and can cause immediate, severe burns of your child's skin, mouth, throat and stomach.
Nail polishes, nail strengtheners, and nail polish removers are rarely swallowed in large quantities because they have an unpleasant taste and may cause an irritating sensation in the mouth. However, they can be harmful if large quantities are ingested.
Nail glues are not poisonous but they bind instantly. Large amounts of glue can get stuck in the throat and, if exposed to the eyes, may glue them shut.
Creams, lotions, foundation, lipstick, rouge and eye makeup are non-toxic but can cause diarrhea if eaten in large quantities.
Astringents, skin cleansers and make-up removers contain alcohol or camphor. They are potentially poisonous but due to their unpleasant taste they are rarely ingested in large enough amounts to cause concern.
Mouthwash contains high concentrations of alcohol. Alcohol is poisonous to children. Unlike most personal care products, mouthwash has a very pleasant taste and smell; therefore, it has the potential for being consumed in significant quantities.
Perfume contains even higher concentration of alcohol than mouthwash but because of its bitter taste it is usually not ingested in dangerous amounts.
Deodorants are not poisonous, but they will irritate the mouth and can cause diarrhea when large amounts are eaten.
Toothpaste is not poisonous in small quantities, but it may be irritating to the mouth and stomach. Fluoride-containing toothpaste is more of a concern.
It is important to recognize how attractive and accessible these products can be to children.
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