While summer weather and festivities keep everyone outside and active, parents should take every precaution to protect their children from injuries and poisonings. Data from the Central Ohio Poison Center demonstrate that pediatric exposures to lamp oil are increasing more this summer than last.
So far this summer, there has been an 80 percent increase in the number of phone calls related to exposures to the lamp oil found in items like tiki torches in children five years old and younger. With 10 calls to the Central Ohio Poison Center this time last summer, to 18 calls by mid-July this summer with the anticipation of more calls during the next six weeks of the season, parents should be vigilant at family picnics and cook outs to ensure their children’s safety. Tiki torch fuel contains hydrocarbons, which are liquids with physical properties that make them easy to choke on. Once even a single sip is ingested, the hydrocarbons can enter the lungs and cause dangerous symptoms including difficulty breathing, pneumonia, respiratory failure leading to the need for ventilator support, and coma.
“Lamp oil found in backyard tiki torches looks like apple juice to kids, making it seem safe and kid-friendly,” said Marcel Casavant, MD, chief of Toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center. “Children are naturally curious, and they are drawn to bright colors and pretty packaging, which brings them into contact with poisonous substances.”
To protect your children, your pets, and yourself, tiki torch fuel and other products containing hydrocarbons, such as furniture oil, waterproofing agents, and gasoline additives, should be kept in their original containers and stored out of reach or in a locked cabinet. Parents should always heed the warning labels on all chemical products.
If you think your child may have ingested tiki torch fuel or another product containing hydrocarbons, you can call the national Poison Center line at 1-800-222-1222 for free, confidential advice from pharmacists and nurses with special training in poisoning.