11/10/2015 04:30 EST | Updated 11/10/2016 05:12 EST

Medications That Can Kill A Child In Small Doses

A young girl looks at a pile of pills that was left on a counter.
Thomas Perkins via Getty Images
A young girl looks at a pile of pills that was left on a counter.

As a mom and doctor, I want to ensure my kids and your kids are as safe as possible, as often as possible. I work in a busy emergency room and from time to time have the responsibility of caring for unlucky children who accidentally ingest caregiver's medications, sometimes with dire consequences.

Thankfully there are only few medications out there that can harm your child if ingested in small quantities. There are, however, a handful of medicines that have the potential to kill your child even in small doses.

Remember, other people may care for your child, and they may have medications in a bag or purse that a toddler can gain access to. I frequently see toddlers who took a medication out of a grandparent's bag. Make sure everyone who cares for your child understands these dangers, at your home and elsewhere.

Many medications look like candy to a child. Curious and drawn to the bright colors, accidents can happen!

Depression medications

Tricyclic antidepressants

Medication names: amitriptyline, imipramine

Uses: treats depression, chronic pain and migraine headaches

Dangers in children: seizures, arrhythmias, coma, death

Effects: antidepressants are one of the leading cause of accidental death by poisoning in the U.S., after pain medications.

Heart medications

Calcium channel blockers

Example medication names: Diltiazem, Nifedipine, Amlodipine

Used for: high blood pressure, angina, arrhythmias

Dangers for children: low blood pressure, low heart rate, seizures, death

Effects: a child can die within hours or up to 15 hours after taking the medicine. Treatment is supportive -- giving fluid and blood pressure elevating medications can help

Diabetes medications


Uses: type 2 diabetes management

Dangers in children: headache, confusion, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, coma

Effects: as the rates of diabetes rise, there will be more of these medications around for kids to get access to. Children may not show any signs of low blood sugar for hours after ingestion. Giving these children glucose (sugar) can be life saving.

Pain Medication


Example medication names: oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone

Used for: pain relief

Dangers for children: lethargy, breathing difficulty, death

Effects: children may be more sensitive to the effects of opioids than adults. Pain reliever medication including acetaminophenis the most frequent cause of medication-induced fatality from accidental ingestion. Luckily there is an antidote for the treatment of opioid overdose, so it is important to alert the paramedic or doctor if you suspect an opioid overdose.

Muscle ointments or vapour rub

Camphor containing ointment

Used for: congestion, muscle aches, cough

Dangers for children: hyperactivity, seizures, coma, delirium, death

Effects: a toxic ingestion for a toddler is a mere one teaspoon! Ingesting one of the ointments can lead to symptoms within 30 minutes. Call 911 ASAP if you note the smell of camphor on a child's breath.

Aspirin/oil of wintergreen


Example medication names: acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), methyl salicylate

Uses: prevents heart attacks, pain reliever, flavoring

Dangers for children: vomiting, seizures, sweating, lethargy, coma, death

Effects: even a very small amount of ASA or oil of wintergreen can kill a child. Four millilitres of oil of wintergreen may cause death. It smells nice and is tempting to a child to drink.

Please ask all caregivers to your children if they use these medications. If they are accessible to a child, keep them far away!

If you suspect your child may have ingested ANY of these substances, please go to your nearest emergency room ASAP.

This post was originally published here.