Cans of air freshener.

Could Your Kids Have a Problem With Inhalants?

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Inhalant use is more common than you may think. And it can be very dangerous to the health of your children. What are kids inhaling today?

A study recently examined the records of the National Poison Data System (often referred to as “Poison Control”). Researchers wanted to learn exactly what inhalants people were calling about when they dialed Poison Control for advice on how to respond.Cans of air freshener.

They learned that inhalant prevalence is highest among children aged 12 to 17 years and use peaked in 14-year-olds. In contrast to national survey data showing nearly equal use of inhalants by both boys and girls, 73.5% of inhalant cases actually reported to Poison Control were boys, which suggests that boys may pursue riskier behaviors.

Most cases (67.8%) were handled in health care facilities. More than 3400 different products were reported. Propellants, gasoline and paint were the most frequent. Propellants were the only category that substantially increased over time. Butane, propane, and air fresheners had the highest fatality rates. Prevalence for all inhalants was highest in western mountain states and West Virginia, but geographic distribution varied according to what kids were using. Gasoline was a proportionately greater problem for younger children; propellants were an issue for older children.

Scary stuff, isn’t it? This study is real, based on real reports to Poison Control. 

So what can you do? Remember that all containers of cleaners, solvents, gasoline, and other chemicals you may keep in your home can become very dangerous if used by a young experimenting mind.

Keep these items somewhere you can monitor them closely, ideally locked away. You probably can’t tell how much a child may have used by just shaking the can, so know how much you left in the container. You’re not only safe-guarding your own children, you’re protecting their friends who come to your home, as well.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.