Poison center could be your life line

March 20, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE and BRENDAN KIRBYs

Poison center could be your life line

Marie Sword was baby-sitting her 7-year-old grandson on Super Bowl Sunday when she made a horrifying discovery.

"I turned around, and he said, 'Mmm, these vitamins are good,'" she said.

Sword, 58, who lives on Broadfording Church Road northwest of Hagerstown, said she called her daughter-in-law.

"I panicked," she said.

Sword said her daughter-in-law called an organization she had never heard of: the Maryland Poison Control Center, which logged 55,745 calls for help in 1996.

Washington County residents made 933 of those calls, according to officials from the center.

Sword said the poison control specialist on the other end of the line calmly recorded information about the boy. He had eaten 27 multivitamins with iron, which is the toxic part of the vitamins.


"Fortunately for this size child, it was not enough to hurt him," said Bruce Anderson, the center's director.

Anderson said iron was the leading cause of pediatric poisoning deaths several years ago.

Sword said the person she spoke with eased her fears, told her what to expect and then called back three hours later to check on the boy's condition.

"He told me it wasn't life-threatening, which immediately relieved my brain so I could think," she said.

Bradley Sword said he ate the pills because they tasted like Smarties, a pill-shaped candy, and he figured it would do no harm.

Marie Sword said she was impressed with the stickers and informational material that the poison center sent her, including its telephone number.

"I put the sticker on my phone for future use, hoping I'll never need it again," she said.

Bradley said he helped put the poison center's Mr. Yuk stickers on pill bottles and chemical containers throughout the house.

Once he sees a bottle with the frowning face, he said he knows instantly what it means: "Don't eat it."

Anderson said 55 percent to 60 percent of the calls that the center receives deal with children, whether the exposure to poison is intentional or not.

Some scenarios Anderson mentioned were:

- A child who gets into bleach while helping a parent with laundry after the parent is distracted by a telephone call.

- An older sibling pouring cough and cold medicine down the younger sibling's throat.

- A sick child who is given medication by both parents separately, not realizing the other parent had given the child medicine.

Adults also can overdose on drugs by exceeding the recommended dosage, thinking it will do no harm, Anderson said.

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