DON'T TREAT SWALLOWED POISON WITH SYRUP OF IPECAC SAYS AAP
--In a new policy statement, "Poison Treatment in the Home," the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that syrup of ipecac no longer be used routinely as a home treatment strategy.
Until now, the AAP advised that parents keep a 1-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac in the home to induce vomiting if it was feared a child had swallowed a poisonous substance. Ipecac was recommended for use only on the advice of a doctor or poison control center.
Although it seems to make sense to induce vomiting after the ingestion of a potentially poisonous substance, it was never proven to be effective in preventing poisoning. Recent research has failed to show benefit for children who were treated with ipecac. This is the key reason for this policy change.
It is also important to note that poisoning deaths have dropped dramatically over the last 50 years and that most emergency rooms have stopped using the drug in favor of the more effective activated charcoal. Research has shown that ipecac medication has been improperly administered by parents, and has been abused by people with eating disorders such as bulimia. In rare cases, ipecac was used abusively by parents or caregivers with Munchausen syndrome by proxy (a type of child abuse). Abuse of ipecac can lead to heart problems and even death.
The statement stresses that prevention is the best defense against unintentional poisoning, and that parents should keep potential poisons locked out of sight and out of reach. The statement also recommends never transferring a substance from its original to an alternate container, and to safely dispose of all unused and no longer needed medications.
Finally, the policy urges that instead of having ipecac on hand, pediatricians should tell parents to post the universal phone number for poison control near the phone: (800) 222-1222. Parents should call 9-1-1 in the case of convulsions, cessation of breathing or unconsciousness.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A study entitled, "Home Syrup of Ipecac Use Does Not Reduce Emergency Department Use or Improve Outcome" studied data from 64 US poison control centers and concluded that there is no improvement in patient outcome from the use of syrup of ipecac at home. Also in the November issue of Pediatrics is a commentary entitled, "The Demise of Ipecac" which addresses the AAP's new policy.
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First Aid for Poisoning- No More Ipecac Syrup!