Doctor's Offices are Not Childproof


If you have young children or grandchildren, you are probably used to being on the lookout for danger in your home and the child's play areas. But a doctor's office or clinic might be an unrecognized source of danger, as one mother learned.

The mother had an appointment with her doctor to have a small tube placed in her ear to promote healing after an ear infection. When she arrived, her 3-year-old child was allowed to go with her into the exam room along with another family member who was supposed to be watching him. The doctor had gathered his supplies, including a cup of phenol, and placed them on the counter. Phenol is a strong chemical that the doctor was going to use to numb the mother's eardrum. In the blink of an eye, the child was able to grab a cup of phenol off the counter and try to drink it. The chemical spilled down the front of the child's face and chest. He had immediate pain and irritation to his lips, chest, and abdomen. The doctor quickly flushed the involved areas with water and sent the child to a nearby children's hospital. The child was treated for rather severe chemical burns. He also had to undergo two procedures to make sure there was no damage to his throat and breathing passages.

Nurses and doctors typically keep chemicals and medicines locked and out of reach until they are needed. But once these products are removed from a cabinet right before they are needed, children may be able to get them. Thus, it would be safer to find someone to watch a child at home or in the waiting room rather than bring them with you into an exam room. Parents also need to watch their children carefully when visiting the pediatrician's office or hospitals, too. Similar hazards exist there, although doctors and nurses who treat children may have taken additional precautions to keep children safe.

Created on July 1, 2006

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

Show Your Support!

ISMP needs your help to continue our life saving work