Kerosene poisoning is quite a common health hazard amongst children at home in this part of the world. This is because of our dependence on these fuels for quite a number of functions in the home.
It is a common habit for kerosene to be kept in empty water/ drinks bottles and being a colourless liquid, a thirsty child can easily mistake it for water if kept carelessly around.
How does kerosene harm a child?
Kerosene can intoxicate a child either through swallowing directly, inhalation or prolonged contact with the skin.
What are the symptoms of kerosene poisoning?
A child who has just ingested kerosene will usually be found flushed near a kerosene bottle with the mouth and clothes smelling of kerosene. Other features which may be present include
- Fast breathing
- Bluish/dark discolouration of lips, palm and/or feet
- Noisy breathing
- Blister formation on the skin
- Skin Irritations
What to do if your child just ingested kerosene
- Immediately remove the child from the source of poisoning and ensure the airways are open.
- Remove contaminated clothing and wash skin thoroughly with soap and water.
- DO NOT try to make child vomit as this can cause the kerosene fluid to get into the airways and cause a more serious complication.
- DO NOT give palm oil or anything else through the mouth or any other body orifice.
- Take the child immediately to the hospital.
If the quantity of kerosene ingested is small and there are no symptoms, the child may be observed for a few hours and then discharged. However, if symptoms begin to show or worsen subsequently, take the child back to the hospital for further evaluation.
If larger quantities were ingested and the child is having breathing difficulties, he/she will need to be admitted and treated appropriately.
- Remember never to try to make a child who has ingested kerosene vomit!!!
This article was written by Dr Ifunanya Chukwuma(Dr Frisky)