Tales from the Poison Center: Glow sticks

A family’s own personal glow-in-the-dark Halloween freak show

Hoping to make your kids’ Halloween costumes worthy of oohs and ahhs? Take an easier route than the one we took last year. Minutes after a neighbor gave my 5-year-old a glow stick, I hear Cooper let out an epic scream.

I look down and see the scariest Little Lumberjack EVER. Cooper’s mouth and clothes are glowing. Despite our agreement not to eat anything until we checked the trick-or-treat bag at home, the glow stick evidently looked like an irresistible treat.

This isn’t our first rodeo. In his short five years, Cooper has gotten into so many things that we’re practically on a first-name basis with the nurses who answer the phone at the Kentucky Poison Control Center. Put it this way: I’ve got the number programmed into my cellphone.

They told us that luckily the goop inside a glow stick wouldn’t hurt a 5-year-old in this small amount. They told me to just rinse his mouth and clean any goo on his skin; but at that point, we were several blocks from home.

With my 8-year-old niece in tow, we raced home to get him cleaned up. All the way home, my niece is tugging at my elbow. “Aunt Nancy, Aunt Nancy, I have to tell you something,” Carly says.

“Not now, Carly,” I barked. “Can’t you see we’re kind of in the middle of something?” (So much for my reputation as the cool “whatever” aunt.)

“But I have something in my eye,” she bawls.

I close my eyes and pray. “Oh, please, not tonight.” I open my eyes and watch our glow-in-the-dark, freak show Halloween unfold — times two. Carly’s eyes are glowing from a bonus squirt out of Cooper’s glow stick. So I get to call the Poison Control Center AGAIN, and now Brad and I are definitely on a first-name basis. Lovely!

– Embarrassed in Eminence

How to handle a glow stick mishap

Kids love glow-in-the-dark toys, but they are linked to more accidents than you can imagine, especially around holidays like Halloween. This mom may have been embarrassed, but she got a lot of things right that evening.

Here’s a quick action plan if your child is exposed to a glow toy’s contents:

  • Stay calm if your child ingests the inside of a glow toy. The chemicals in these toys can be harmful and irritating but in most cases your child would have to ingest a lot to get sick, which is unlikely. If your baby or child swallows any of the glowing liquid, rinse their mouth with water and give the Poison Control Center a call. In most cases, a snack to remove the taste will be sufficient. If any of it gets on skin, rinse it clean.
  • Rinse out the eyes. The chemicals in glow-in-the-dark toys are very irritating to the eye and may be hazardous if the eye is not thoroughly cleansed. Proper irrigation can take 10 to 15 minutes, which often is difficult to accomplish with a small child. Call the Poison Control Center for techniques to wash out the eye and help with understanding what symptoms to watch for.
  • Dispose carefully. When supervised play ends and glow-in-the-dark toys are used up, don’t make it easy for kids to remove them from trash. Discard them well out of children’s reach.
  • Call us as often as you like. Inquisitive kids are bound to investigate their environment. We don’t count the number of times you call, and we don’t think less of you as a parent if you call frequently. Quite the opposite: We’re here to serve families whenever you need us, as often as you need us.

Let us help this Halloween. The Kentucky Poison Control Center is ready to answer your questions and help you respond to poison emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our service is free of charge. Program our number into your cellphone and call us anytime at (800) 222-1222.


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