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When Your Child Eats A Silica Gel Sachet

I’m sure many of you are familiar with those little sachets you find in almost anything these days.  The ones with the massive “DO NOT EAT” all over them. I have seen my fair share of hysterical parents bring their kids into the ER with a history of having swallowed the contents. But are these sachets really that dangerous?

These little sachets contain silica gel, which is silicon dioxide (Si02). The sachet does not actually contain a gel but rather small beads. Silica is a desiccant, which means it absorbs water. It has millions of small pores that hold moisture and can absorb up to 40% of its weight, which is why you find it in products that would otherwise spoil from excess moisture.

IS SILICA TOXIC?

Silica gel is chemically inert and considered to be non-toxic. Silica gel packets contain less than 5g of silica gel. If this tiny amount is ingested, it basically passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed or digested.

While this means that the contents of these sachets are harmless, it would be quite unpleasant if these are handled or swallowed. The mouth, gums and tongue would become parched, and if the contents were swallowed and not spat out, this would result in a few self-limiting side effects. Most notably, dry throat, eyes and mucous membranes in the nose, together with stomach discomfort and depending on the amount swallowed, nausea, vomiting and constipation. If the sachet was opened and the contents handled, it can also dry out and irritate the skin.

FIRST AID FIRST

If you think your child has played with silica gel, practice the principles of first aid. Anywhere the silica has come in contact, will be irritated. Wash whatever parts of the skin have been in contact with the silica and moisturise afterwards. If the eye has been touched, then rinse with running water for up to 15 minutes. If the contents were swallowed the best thing you can do is offer continuous sips of water to relieve the stomach distress. Do not give anything to induce vomiting! You don’t want the silica to be inhaled, because it can cause a very irritating cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms of silica ingestion are self-limiting, meaning that eventually, they will go away on their own.

IF SILICA IS NON-TOXIC WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?

The biggest concern with these sachets is choking. These tiny beads are a choking hazard for small children. Unfortunately, additives, such as moisture indicators, are also sometimes added to the silica which can then make it toxic.

WHAT ARE MOISTURE INDICATORS?

Some silica gel sachets have moisture indicators. These indicator sachets are available in different colours depending on the type of indicator used. You may also find some sachets which contain a mixture of both indicator and non-indicator beads. The blue “indicator” silica gel is the more common one you may find. The blue comes from either cobalt dioxide, methyl violet or some other toxic substance that gets added to the silica. These substances change colour when wet and therefore are a good indicator of a saturated silica gel sachet. Cobalt dioxide, in particular, is a known carcinogen and also affects fertility. The FDA is busy banning this additive altogether, and thankfully, these indicator sachets are not commonly found in consumer products. If your child does, however, come into contact with one of these, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

Always remember to discard these sachets immediately after opening your products. Given the uncertainty of the composition of some of these silica sachets, practice the principles of first aid and keep an eye out for any unusual signs and symptoms whenever your child comes into contact with silica. If there is any concern, head straight to your nearest emergency room and don’t forget to take the sachet with you so that the contents can be tested.

RESOURCES

https://www.productip.com/uploads/CClip_519_SilicaGel_20130827_v1.pdf

https://www.illinoispoisoncenter.org/my-child-ate-Silica-Gel

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3493316/

10 Essential Tips To Prevent Poisoning In Your Home

I was recently prescribed some analgesics for a small day procedure. That afternoon, when I got home, I placed the packet of meds on my dresser and later found my daughter sitting on the floor inspecting the packet. My heart stopped! This careless mistake could have had devastating consequences.

Unfortunately poisoning data in South Africa is lacking. One study dating back to 2012 found that the most common cause of accidental poisoning in SA children is pesticides. However, the list of potential poisons throughout our homes is extensive; here are just a few more obvious ones:

  • Medications
  • Household cleaners and disinfectants
  • Cosmetics and toiletries
  • Insect and rodent repellants
  • Weed killers and other outdoor chemicals
  • Swimming pool chemicals
  • Flea and tick shampoos and other products for pets

I have put together a list of some useful tips to prevent accidental poisoning at home. Some of them may seem fairly obvious but as I have recently experienced it is easy to forget.

  1. Keep all potential household and other hazards in their original containers. DO NOT transfer into coke bottles or Tupperware’s.
  2. Make sure seals of potential hazards are tight and secure before locking away. Please note that child resistant packaging of medications is NOT childproof.
  3. Keep potential hazards locked away in the highest cupboard with a childproof lock. The cupboard should even be high for you, as little minds can get quite creative with boxes and stools and climb up onto countertops.
  4. Keep potential hazards out of reach of children when in use and never leave bottles or buckets unattended.
  5. Never call medicine sweets/candy. This is a common mistake parents make in order to get their kids to take medicine when sick. This could lead to a child one day consuming an entire bottle of ‘sweets’.
  6. Never leave your handbag lying around and be extra cautious when you have visitors over as many people keep painkillers in their bags.
  7. Alcohol is often overlooked and is very dangerous to your little ones if consumed in excess. Keep alcohol out of reach of children especially when hosting parties.
  8. Any kind of battery can be dangerous if leaking or ingested. Keep remote controls and other battery containing devices away from children.
  9. If you are unsure about whether or not a household item is hazardous, assume it is and keep it locked away. Things that seem harmless are most often extremely dangerous.
  10. Most importantly TEACH your children about the dangers!

It may be a good idea to identify what potential hazards you have in your home. Do a check of every room in the house including your garage and make sure your home is safe.

RESOURCES

Balme, K., Roberts, J.C., Glasstone, M., Curling, L. & Mann, M.D. (2012) The changing trends of childhood poisoning at a tertiarychildren’s hospital in South Africa. South African Medical Journal. [Online] 102 (3), pp. 142-146. Available from: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0256-95742012000300023&lng=en&tlng=en [Accessed 8 August 2018].

Veale, D.J.H., Wium, C.A. & Müller, G.J. (2012) Toxicovigilance I: A survey of acute poisoning in South Africa based on Tygerberg Poison Information Centre data. South African Medical Journal. [Online] 103 (5), pp. 293-297. Available from: http://www.samj.org.za/index.php/samj/article/view/6647/5054 [Accessed 8 August 2018].

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