Beauty products send a child to hospital every two hours, U.S. study finds

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Children are frequently being poisoned by their parents’ cosmetic and beauty products, a new study has found.

The study, which examined injuries to children under the age of five, found that an estimated 64,686 children visited U.S. emergency rooms due to cosmetic products over between 2002 and 2016. This was the equivalent of an injury every two hours.

Most of the injuries were poisonings, according to the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, though there were also chemical burns.

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The product that most frequently resulted in an emergency room visit was nail polish remover — which contains acetone. Acetone poisoning can result in stomach upset, nausea and a fast heartbeat, according to the Northern New England Poison Center. Nail polish remover accounted for 17 per cent of hospital visits, according to the study.

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Shampoos and conditioners, creams and perfumes also frequently sent young children to the emergency room.

In Ontario, cosmetic products are the third most common source of poison exposure for children under five, according to the Ontario Poison Centre. The top two are over-the-counter pain relievers and household cleaners.

Worryingly, the product that most often resulted in a hospital stay in the U.S. study was hair relaxer, a caustic chemical used to straighten hair. The chemical can cause burns, including inside the esophagus or stomach if it’s ingested.

Kids are attracted to these products, said Rebecca McAdams, a senior research associate at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio and a co-author of the study. “They often smell good. They may even look like a food or a drink to a young child,” she said.

“These kids are too young to read, too young to discern between a cosmetic product like a lotion and something that is edible like a yogurt. They’re also at this age where they are exploring their world by putting things into their mouths.”

Some cosmetics, like soaps, are even made to look or smell like food or have attractive packaging, which can confuse a toddler, she said.

READ MORE: How kids are poisoning themselves, and how to prevent it

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For that reason, McAdams hopes that parents think about their cosmetic products the same way as they do medications or household cleaners. “We recommend that parents and caregivers store their cosmetics safely, similar to medication, meaning up high and out of sight of children, stored within their original containers and also stored in a cabinet that is locked or latched.”

Parents might not realize the hazard that these products pose, she said.

“When adults use these products, and they follow the directions of these products, the product is typically safe. And so it’s easy to be unaware of the severe injuries that could result when it gets into the hands of someone who’s young, under the age of five,” she said.

Because the study only looked at emergency room visits and not visits to a family doctor or poison control centre, McAdams thinks that it is likely underestimating how often these kinds of poisonings happen.

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